Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Mursi, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for his first foreign trip since taking office and met with King Abdullah, the official SPA news agency said.
Mursi was met on his arrival in Jeddah by Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, crown prince, deputy prime minister and defense minister.
The discussions were “fruitful and constructive and in the interest of Egypt, of Saudi Arabia and of the people of the region,” Mursi told reporters in Saudi’s southern port city of Jeddah at the end of Wednesday night's meeting.
“Everything (King Abdullah) said was in the interest of the future, of the region and of Egypt,” he said, adding that the king spoke with “wisdom and knowledge and love for the Egyptian people.”
Under Mursi’s predecessor, the ousted Hosni Mubarak, Egypt and Saudi Arabia enjoyed close relations.
But a rare diplomatic crisis between the two regional powers in April saw Riyadh recall its ambassador in Cairo and close its embassy for several days, after protests demanding the release of a lawyer detained in the kingdom.
Mursi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose ties with the Gulf kingdom have historically been marked by mistrust, headed to Saudi Arabia in what signals “continuity in bilateral relations between the two states regardless of who is in power in Cairo,” said Saudi analyst Jamal Khashoggi.
Gulf nations accused the Brotherhood of plotting to support regime change in their region.
However, Mursi pledged after his win not to export Egypt’s revolution or meddle in the affairs of other countries.
“The Saudi kingdom has no reservations about the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Khashoggi added, despite the warming of ties between the Brotherhood and Iran, Saudi’s arch rival, under Egypt’s Mubarak.
Tensions have long existed between the Gulf and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, who were thrust to power by the Arab Spring revolt that swept the country last year. But the tensions are not preventing Egypt’s new leadership from making pragmatic decisions, Khashoggi said.
“There are many signs that the Egyptians are prioritizing their relations with the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, over their relations with Iran,” he noted, adding that Iran was in need of “assistance and cannot offer anything” to Egypt right now.
“Egypt is now focusing on alliances with Turkey and Saudi, both Sunni Muslim countries with significant economic potential,” said Khashoggi.
Anwar Eshki, president of the Saudi-based Middle East Centre for Strategic and Legal Studies, said the Brotherhood’s ties with Iran were “their own business ... But they shouldn’t tolerate any interference by Iran in Egypt.”
Despite the turbulent relationship, the Muslim Brotherhood “recognize that the kingdom stood by them when they were on bad terms with (former Egyptian president Gamal) Abdul Nasser,” Eshki added.
In an interview with the Saudi daily Okaz on Tuesday, Mursi was unequivocal in his attitude towards Egypt’s traditional ally.
“We in Egypt cannot forget that Saudi Arabia has always stood by the Arabs,” he said, adding that “Gulf security is a red line” that must not be crossed.
“Stability in Egypt is important for Saudi Arabia,” said analyst Abdul Aziz Al Sagr, head of the Gulf Research Centre, while noting that the kingdom is the main source of economic aid for impoverished Egypt.
Riyadh has deposited $1 billion into the Egyptian Central Bank as a loan guarantee, and Cairo, which is battling a severe economic crisis. Egypt received a $1 billion pledge of assistance from the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank earlier this month. Saudi Arabia has also allocated $250 million for natural gas exports to Egypt