Egypt's el-Sissi visits Saudi Arabia to mend ties

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 25.04.2017 01:03

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi received a royal welcome from King Salman as he landed Sunday in Saudi Arabia for a visit to boost ties after months of tension.

The two Arab leaders then had talks during which they "reviewed the strong and brotherly relations as well as cooperation between their two countries" and regional issues, the agency said. The Egyptian presidency announced the visit in a statement on Friday, saying Sisi's trip was in response to an invitation by Salman and aimed at "bolstering strategic relations between the two countries."

Egypt's Sissi met Salman on the sidelines of an Arab League summit in Jordan last month to break the ice after months of apparent tensions between the two allies.

Despite a long-term relationship between Cairo and Riyadh since the 2013 military coup by Egypt's el-Sissi, political disagreements between both countries have increased. The close allies hold different views on Syria, where Saudi Arabia has aggressively pursued efforts to oust Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Egypt voted in favor of two separate draft resolutions on Syria at the U.N. Security Council, one of which had been drafted by Syria's staunch ally Russia. After the crisis at UNSC, Aramco had halted agreed monthly deliveries of 700,000 tons of petroleum products without explanation last October. After six months of suspension, Egypt announced that Saudi energy giant Aramco had resumed delivering shipments of petroleum products.

The Security Council spat was the first public quarrel between Riyadh and Cairo since the Egyptian military's 2013 ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi and the subsequent flow of billions of dollars in Saudi aid that kept Egypt's ailing economy afloat.

Saudi's move came after Egypt's announcement that it will host Russian troops for war games along the Mediterranean coast, the latest step in the two countries' rapprochement. The drill, due to take place Oct. 15-26 in the coastal city of El-Alamein and dubbed the "Guardians of Friendship," includes "elite units" from both sides. Russia's defense ministry said it would be the first ever joint paratrooper exercise for the two and would involve armor being dropped from planes.

Egypt has increased cooperation with Russia under President el-Sissi, with a preliminary agreement to build a nuclear power plant among other moves. The country is also negotiating with Russia to restore flights to its Red Sea resorts, a year after the bombing of a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers back to St. Petersburg.

Ties between Cairo and Riyadh had also suffered after an agreement to hand over to Saudi Arabia two Red Sea islands, signed during a visit by Salman to Cairo last year, was blocked by a court ruling. Earlier this month, an Egyptian court ruled that the decision to block the transfer of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia was invalid. Cairo has said the islands were Saudi territory which had been leased to Egypt in the 1950s.

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