egypt

Riyadh and Cairo sign $10b mega city deal

Mohammad Bin Zayed, Al Sissi visit Suez Canal as Egypt, Saudi Arabia eye closer links

18:22 March 5, 2018
Saudi Crowon Prince

Cairo: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman on Monday got a first-hand glimpse of a major Egyptian project in the Suez Canal zone on the second day of his first foreign trip as heir apparent.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi accompanied Prince Mohammad on a voyage of the expanded Suez Canal. The new waterway, inaugurated in 2015, is 72km long. It was built in one year to allow two-way traffic on the Suez Canal and cut the waiting time for ships passing through the vital waterway.

Al Sissi and Prince Mohammad on Monday opened a Suez Canal resort complex in the city of Esmailia, east of Cairo, and inspected tunnels under the major waterway. The tunnels are aimed at facilitating movement between the mainland and Sinai, where Egyptian forces are carrying out a major campaign against militants.

The two leaders also inspected the New Esmailia town, a 2,157-acre community being built near Esmailia.

The tour was broadcast live on Egyptian state television, in a gesture traditionally reserved for the country’s high-profile visitors.

Since he took office in 2014, Al Sissi has been interested in launching big development projects to heal Egypt’s ailing economy. They include the Suez Canal development zone designed to turn Egypt into a global logistical and trade hub.

Mohammad arrived in Egypt on Sunday for a three-day visit as part of his maiden foreign tour since becoming the heir to the throne last June. He is visiting Britain on Wednesday.

Al Sissi welcomed Mohammad at the Cairo airport and headed together to the Presidential Palace where they held talks. Egyptian and Saudi officials signed several cooperation pacts, including an agreement to set up a joint $10 billion investment fund.

Saudi Arabia is the Arab world’s top investor in Egypt, and has pumped billions of dollars into revitalising the nation’s economy, battered by the unrest that followed the 2011 uprising.

Relations between the two key countries have deepened since 2013 when the army, then led by Al Sissi, deposed president Mohammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, following enormous street protests against his one-year rule.

Last June, Egypt joined Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in breaking off diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar over its support for terrorist groups.

Qatar is a staunch backer of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has designated as a terrorist organisation.

At their talks Sunday night, Al Sissi and the Saudi crown prince pledged to “confront terrorism and its financiers”, Egyptian media reported.