Saudi crown prince lands in Egypt on start of regional tour

Originally posted to the Reuters website, 21 June 2022

CAIRO, June 20 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Egypt on Monday, the Egyptian presidency said, starting his first tour outside the Gulf region in over three years. He will also visit Jordan and Turkey.

The prince’s trip comes ahead of next month’s visit to the region by U.S. President Joe Biden, who is expected to meet Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia after a visit to Israel, with the Ukraine conflict and regional security on the agenda.

Prince Mohammed, known as MbS, will hold talks with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Turkey on strengthening bilateral cooperation and matters of joint interest, Saudi state news agency SPA said.

Sources have said MbS and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi would discuss issues including the impact of the Ukraine war and alignment of the Saudi and Egyptian positions ahead of Biden’s trip to the region in mid-July. 

Sisi welcomed MbS at Cairo airport on Monday evening, Egypt’s presidency said.

Saudi Arabia has provided billions of dollars in financial support to Egypt since Sisi came to power, and its sovereign wealth is expected to announce investments as Cairo struggles with the economic knock-on effect of the Ukraine war.

On Tuesday, the prince is expected to head to Amman for talks with King Abdullah to improve ties strained by regional rivalries and unfulfilled Saudi pledges to shore up Jordan’s struggling economy, diplomats and sources with knowledge of the plans said.

It is the prince’s first tour outside the Gulf since the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the COVID-19 pandemic. MbS visited Egypt in 2018 and Japan in 2019.

Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul had strained the kingdom’s ties with Washington and Ankara.

Biden said on Friday he was not traveling to Saudi Arabia explicitly to meet MbS but was seeing the crown prince as part of a broader “international meeting” expected to include leaders from Gulf Arab states, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has moved to mend ties with Riyadh, including by dropping a Turkish trial over Khashoggi’s killing. Analysts say Saudi funding could help alleviate Turkey’s economic woes.

Erdogan, who visited the kingdom in April in the first high-level trip in years, said he would host Prince Mohammed on Wednesday. 

“A new era will begin and there will be full normalisation. Within the scope of the visit, some agreements will be signed in the fields of energy, economy and security,” a senior Turkish official said.

Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Aidan Lewis in Cairo, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman and Orhan Coskun in Ankara; writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Deepa Babington

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