Outcomes of Saudi King’s Visit to Egypt

Friday, April 15, 2016

IRNA Research and News Analysis Group

A five-day trip by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to Egypt ended on Monday, April 11. The trip was made at a time that both countries need each other one way or another. After facing frequent failures in its regional policies, especially following Iran’s nuclear agreement with the West, consecutive victories won by the Syrian army over the Saudi-backed opposition, as well as fruitlessness of more than a year of Saudi war on Yemen, Riyadh really needs to strengthen and rebuild its regional standing by bolstering relations with other influential countries, such as Egypt.

Saudi Arabia aims to attract Egypt’s political support in order to be able of face regional issues and challenges. In addition, Saudis are bent on taking advantage of the capacity of the big and powerful Egyptian army, which has the experience of taking part in many wars, in order to realize their own goals.

On the other hand and at the present juncture, due to reduction in tourism revenues and foreign investment, Egypt needs Saudi Arabia’s money and capital. The government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is grappling with serious economic and financial crises and in order to improve the situation in the country has set its sights on valuable gifts from Saudi Arabia. It was during this very trip that the two countries signed 20 agreements and memorandums of understanding in such fields as electricity, housing and nuclear energy.

Riyadh and Cairo also reached an agreement to build a connecting bridge over the Red Sea in order to connect the two countries. This bridge, which will be the first of its kind and will connect Africa to Asia, will also lead to remarkable increase in volume of trade exchanges between the two countries. The Egyptian president has announced in this regard that the bridge would be named after Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

As for the general atmosphere governing relations between Riyadh and Cairo, which seems to be quite amiable right now, it must be noted that Saudi Arabia threw its support behind General Sisi when he staged a coup against his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi. However, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have had serious differences of viewpoints on many issues during recent years and the two sides’ priorities with regard to regional issues are not the same. Under these conditions, common grounds, some of which were enumerated above, make the leaders of Riyadh and Cairo see themselves in the same boat.

Egypt has not shared Saudi Arabia’s views on any of important regional cases, including Riyadh’s insistence on the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad, or engaging in a land war with Yemen, and also when Saudi Arabia declared its readiness to dispatch forces to Syria. In none of these cases Egypt has actually behaved in the way that Saudi Arabia expected. Even in some cases, Cairo has taken steps, which have been quite the opposite of what Riyadh wanted. For example, Cairo stood in Riyadh’s face by announcing support for Russia's military intervention in Syria, while another example is a recent position taken by the Egyptian foreign minister when Saudi Arabia indicated its readiness to dispatch its forces to Syria, to which the Egyptian minister answered by saying that it was a personal decision by Saudi officials.

Despite all these facts, when it comes to competition with Iran and in order to recruit more allies, Saudis are willing to get Egypt in line with their policies even by giving many concessions to Cairo. Of course, Egypt has been making the most of this trump card in its own favor. In other words, the coldness in relations between Iran and Egypt can be considered to be partly related to the existing tensions between Tehran and Riyadh and this issue has turned into a tool in the hands of Egyptians, who are using it to take economic advantage of Saudi Arabia.

We saw in this trip that Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry made remarks in which he criticized Iran and accused Tehran of making an effort to boost its influence in neighboring countries. He emphasized that this is why Egypt has severed diplomatic relations with Iran so far. Of course, Egyptians’ effort to curry favor with their Saudi guest did not stop here and they removed Lebanon’s al-Manar satellite television network, which is affiliated to Hezbollah resistance movement, from the list of Nilesat channels.

When it comes to regional issues and rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia, especially over the complicated crisis in Syria, in addition to Egypt, Saudis need to get Turkey in line as well. This comes at a time that relations between Cairo and Ankara have become tense due to Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the former Egyptian president.

In view of the above facts, one of the important issues, which were discussed by Saudi Arabia’s senescent king with Egyptian President Sisi in his five-day tour of Egypt, was the issue of reducing tensions in Ankara’s relations with Cairo. This is true as just a short while after his visit to Cairo, the Saudi king traveled to Turkey upon an official invitation from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In addition to meeting with Turkish officials, King Salman also took part in the 13th summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul on April 14 and 15, 2016. It is quite likely that during his visit to Cairo, King Salman has been trying to get Sisi to pay a visit to Turkey and take part in the aforesaid meeting. In fact, the Saudi king has assumed the role of mediator between Turkey and Egypt and is doing his best to improve relations between these countries in order to bring them close together.

In conclusion, serial failures of Saudi Arabia with respect to various cases in the region have prompted Saudi rulers to travel to Egypt in a bid to both resolve bilateral political differences and form a new coalition in order to save and bolster their position on multilayered regional issues and crises by mediating and bringing about reconciliation between Ankara and Cairo.

Last but not least, due to regional rivalries with Iran and also to prevent renewed empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Saudi Arabia needs to maintain close relations with Sisi’s government. On the other hand, due to its economic needs, Egypt is not willing to say no to Saudi rulers.

Key WordsSaudi King, Visit, Egypt, Outcomes, King Salman, Political Support, Regional Issues, Challenges, Egyptian Army, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Mohamed Morsi, Bashar Assad, Yemen, Syria, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Turkey, Economic Needs, Reconciliation

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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