JEDDAH: For decades, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have had a unique relationship. Considered twin pillars, the two nations seek to consolidate their alliance and cooperation to strengthen their individual and common regional positions, thus maintaining their deep-rooted historical ties, and the arrival of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Cairo. Monday, is going to tighten further.
The strong ties between Egypt and Saudi Arabia have symbolic and concrete significance for the Arab world. The two countries historically see each other as important allies of the region – a policy dating back to May 7, 1936, when Egypt officially recognized the Saudi state.
The two nations have grown stronger and established close diplomatic ties over the years, overcoming obstacles and differences even in turbulent times.
From 1945 to 1946, the official state visits of King Abdelaziz and King Farouk focused on regional concerns, security and stability, topics that spearheaded the programs of the two heads of state, particularly the Palestinian crisis. , Syria and Lebanon, the creation of an Israeli state and the strengthening of relations between Arab nations with common interests and benefits.
On March 22, 1945, the Arab League was established. The Voluntary Association of Arab States was founded by Saudi Arabia and Egypt along with Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Its main purpose is to strengthen relations, coordinate cooperation, preserve the independence and sovereignty of its Member States and take into account their collective affairs and interests.
Since then, sixteen Arab nations have joined the Arab League, and the twenty-two member states follow a common philosophy: “A language, a civilization: twenty-two Arab countries.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Middle East experienced severe political upheavals. The region has witnessed the fall of several monarchies, two major wars with Israel, growing concerns about continued tensions and growing ideological divides that threaten the unity of the Arab nations. The cordial relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt were defined by time.
King Faisal paid his first official visit on September 8, 1965, and he visited Egypt seven times during his reign. While Saudi Arabia was uniquely positioned to occupy a leadership position in the Muslim world, Egypt was also building up its military power.
In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat supported King Faisal’s oil embargo to protest Western support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, also known as the Ramadan War. In return, King Faisal supported the coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria during and after the war.
A year later, King Faisal’s visit further consolidated relations between neighboring states. During his journey, he toured several cities, and thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to welcome him. Similarly, King Fahd and President Hosni Mubarak enjoyed a prosperous relationship that spanned more than two decades. The Saudi king has visited Egypt on several occasions, but it was in 1990 that Egypt’s unwavering support proved essential at an emergency meeting of the Arab League, led by Mubarak, to establish the common commitment of all members of the League to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation.
The duo would subsequently agree on a host of issues, including the Palestinian crisis that came to a head in 2000, when a new call for a league summit was launched by Egypt to take a unified stance on Israeli-Palestinian violence.
It was the first summit for Arab leaders in four years. Egypt, a key negotiator with Israel, reminded its colleagues of their duty to “try again to save the peace process”.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah called on leaders to donate $ 1 billion to support the Palestinian uprising and fund projects on Palestinian lands. Saudi Arabia will contribute 25% of this support.
King Abdullah has maintained the strong relationship between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the two Red Sea neighbors share growing interests in maritime security, tourism and development without the usual competition for power and leadership.
His first visit to Egypt as head of state was in Sharm el-Sheikh in 2008. During his stay, he focused on the conflict in Iraq and the growing threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
The Arab Spring and its catastrophic consequences have not hampered relations between the two nations. Following Mubarak’s ouster and the short and turbulent presidency of the Muslim Brotherhood, the two nations embraced their strong friendship with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s takeover in 2013.
Al-Sisi is seen as an important friend of Riyadh and as a representative of an Egyptian state that supports the regional status quo.
Bilateral relations have improved significantly since then, with relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt increasingly characterized by growing economic ties and joint development projects, supported by favorable infrastructure and investment climate.
Over the last four decades, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have forged strong economic, social, humanitarian and cultural ties. The Kingdom offers many opportunities for Egyptian labor through legal work visas, and according to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, 1.8 million Egyptians live in the Kingdom.
In 2016, King Salman addressed the Egyptian parliament, calling for unity and alliance. He was the first Arab leader to give such a speech in Cairo, and that visit also resulted in the conclusion of twenty-one investment agreements and memoranda of understanding between the two countries.
He was named Egypt’s “Grand Guest” and awarded the Nile Order, the country’s highest state honor.
“This visit confirms the promises of brotherhood and solidarity between the two fraternal countries,” Mr Al-Sisi said in a televised speech.
An Egyptian-Saudi investment fund has also been set up, with a total of $ 16 billion injected ($ 1 = 0.95 euros) into Saudi investment projects in several Egyptian governors. There are approximately 2900 Saudi projects in Egypt and 1300 Egyptian projects in Saudi Arabia. The total value of Saudi investments in Egypt is $ 27 billion.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has visited Cairo several times since 2017 to showcase the alliance between the two countries. A host of bilateral agreements and investment projects have since been signed.
In 2018, the Kingdom became the second largest foreign investor, accounting for 11% of total foreign investment in Egypt, whose volume exceeded $ 6 billion. A $ 10 billion deal was reached in March of that year, when Egypt agreed to develop land south of Sinai to become part of Neom.
The main Saudi investments for Egypt are in the service sector, including energy, transport, logistics, health and education.
The latest aid package was launched in March last year when Saudi Arabia announced $ 5 billion in aid deposited in Egypt’s central bank.
This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com