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Egypt Fetes Saudi Crown Prince During Visit to Suez Canal


Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, greets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his arrival to Cairo, Egypt, for a visit meant to deepen the alliance between two of the region's powerhouses, Sunday, March 4, 2018.

Egypt gave a warm welcome to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday during a visit to the Suez Canal on the second day of his three-day trip.

Posters featuring Salman alongside President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi lined major roads in central Cairo, where Salman will later visit the main Muslim and Christian institutions and see a performance at the Opera.

The prince and el-Sissi travelled through one of the new tunnels being built under the canal, before boarding a boat from a red-carpeted dock as a military band played fanfare.

Egypt seeks investments from oil-rich Saudi Arabia to help develop the area, where Cairo wants to establish an international transport, logistics and production hub.

The two are also expected to discuss the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as their joint boycott of tiny Gulf nation Qatar, which they accuse of fomenting extremism across the region.

Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, and Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest, tightened their longstanding alliance after el-Sissi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013, with Riyadh providing tens of billions of dollars in aid.

The two countries have plans to build a causeway across the Red Sea and to jointly develop areas on both sides.

El-Sissi faced a backlash, however, over the transfer of two strategic Red Sea islands to the Saudis, denounced by critics as a quid pro quo for the massive aid package. The move sparked some of the largest protests against el-Sissi's rule, which were swiftly dispersed.

The government insists the islands were always part of Saudi Arabia, and that Egypt only assumed temporary custodianship of them in the 1950s at a time of soaring Arab-Israeli tensions.

On the eve of the crown prince's visit, Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court dismissed all previous rulings on the islands, including those that struck down the deal. The agreement has been ratified by Egypt's parliament, which is packed with el-Sissi supporters.

Egyptians have a generally favorable view of Saudi Arabia, where many have worked in the booming oil economy during Egypt's decades of stagnation since the 1970s. Remittances from Egyptians there play an important part in the local economy, while conservative religious customs have also taken root in Egypt, in part due to expats' exposure to them in Saudi Arabia.

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