Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) welcomes Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz upon his arrival at the Cairo International Airport, Apr. 7, 2016. Photo provided by the Egyptian presidency.
CAIRO, Apr 8 (Aswat Masriya) - During his first official visit to Cairo, Saudi King Salman said Friday he agreed with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that a bridge connecting the two countries will be built across the Red Sea.
This bridge will connect Asia and Africa and is expected to boost bilateral trade and enable the two countries to deliver their exports to the world, Salman added in a joint press conference with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the Ittihadiya presidential palace.
Sisi welcomed Salman’s announcement. “If you allow me, we will call the bridge ‘King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Bridge,’” Sisi said, addressing the Saudi leader.
Salman arrived in Cairo on Thursday in his first official visit to the Egyptian capital. He had made a brief visit to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in March 2015 to attend the 26th Arab Summit.
Sisi announced in the news conference that Salman has been awarded the Order of the Nile medal, Egypt’s highest state honour.
The two leaders signed 17 memoranda of understanding as well as deals worth $590 million in the fields of electricity, housing and nuclear energy, in addition to establishing a Saudi university and housing complexes in Sinai, the Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation said in a statement on Friday.
Egyptian state-run news agency MENA also announced that the two heads of state witnessed the signing of an agreement to demarcate their maritime boundaries.
Salman’s five-day visit to Egypt defies pessimism expressed by many analysts over the two countries relations, with Riyadh purportedly losing patience with Egypt’s inability to make the best use of Saudi financial support.
Years of political turmoil have taken a toll on the Egyptian economy, halving the state’s foreign reserves and driving away tourists, contributing to a dollar shortage.
Saudi Arabia and Gulf neighbours Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have backed Egypt since the military ouster of former president Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule.
Last December, Saudi Arabia said it will raise its investments in Egypt to above 30 billion Saudi riyals ($8 billion) and pledged to contribute to providing Egypt with petroleum needs for the next five years. The Saudi decision came one day after Saudi Arabia launched an "Islamic military alliance" to fight terrorism, made up of 34 countries including Egypt.
“In the kingdom, we hold Egypt dear as well as our strategic relations, which are important to the Arab and Muslim worlds. God bless Egypt and its people,” Salman tweeted on his official Twitter account on Thursday.
Sisi said Friday during the joint press conference that Egyptian-Saudi relations will enable the two countries “to confront common challenges and deal seriously with anyone seeking to harm Arab national security.”