King Salman talks ‘unity’ at Egypt’s parliament

Saudi King Salman on Sunday became the first Arab leader to give an address in Egypt’s parliament

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Saudi King Salman urged for “unity” and “joint alliance” during his historic speech at Egypt’s parliament on Sunday where he became the first Arab leader to give such address in Cairo.

“To remedy issues of our nations, with the Palestinian cause at the forefront, we are required to be united in one stance, one word,” he said, adding: “the Saudi-Egyptian cooperation we are witnessing today is a blessed beginning for our Arab and Muslim world to achieve balance after years of destabilization.”

King Salman’s address was received with deafening applause and a standing ovation. Some lawmakers waved the kingdom’s green flag, while others chanted “all of Egypt greets you.”

Joint work with Egypt and Saudi will “fasten the elimination of terrorism,” he said. “Experiences have showed that work amid joint alliance makes us much stronger.”

In his six-minute address Sunday, King Salman said Egypt and Saudi Arabia have agreed to build a bridge linking the nations across the Red Sea and to work together to create a pan-Arab defense force, an Egyptian idea first floated last year.

“We are working together to launch an Arab joint force,” he said, adding that “terrorism” and “radicalism” must be fought financially, militarily and ideologically.

The king also reiterated and hailed the recent deals inked between Riyadh and Cairo after the two agreed to set up a $16 billion investment fund Saturday and settled a long-standing maritime dispute.

He said the planned bridge over the Red Sea will not only “connect Asia and Africa” but it will be a “gate to Africa,” boosting exports of the two countries and creating job opportunities for people in the region.

He also said the planned free trade zone in northern Sinai Peninsula will also boost the region economically.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Egypt have a historic opportunity to achieve huge economic leaps by cooperating with each other,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has been a traditional source of economic and political support to Egypt, but the kingdom significantly stepped up its backing after the military’s 2013 ouster of an Islamist President.

Before his address, Egypt’s Parliament Speaker Ali Abdulal said “this is the first time a Saudi king talks with Egypt’s people from this [parliament] dome.”

Abdulal hailed Saudi efforts especially when exerting its diplomatic leverage in attempting to end issues in the region such as hosting Syrian opposition groups, describing Riyadh as the “center” to resolve crisis.

He also said “history won’t forget how you [King Salman] led the Decisive Storm to end Yemen’s crisis” and formed the Islamic Alliance against terrorism.

Saudi Arabia last year formed and led a military alliance to stop the Iran-backed Houthi militia from toppling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

He said both Cairo and Riyadh are facing battling against what he described “black terrorism,” and both share similar “visions and realizations” on different issues.

On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and King Salman agreed to set up a $16 billion investment fund.

The announcement came as the king continued his visit to the country, in which he had also announced a plan to build a bridge over the Red Sea to Egypt. Also signed was an arrangement by Cairo to demarcate its maritime borders with Saudi Arabia, officially placing two islands in the Straits of Tiran – named Tiran and Sanafir - in Saudi territory.

Historically, Tiran had been a Saudi island “leased” to Egypt in 1950.

A live Egyptian state television broadcast on Saturday showed an official announcing the latest agreements in Cairo’s historic Abdeen Palace, signed by a representative of each country.

The two nations agreed "to set up a Saudi-Egyptian investment fund with a capital of 60 billion Saudi riyals ($16 billion)," the announcer said, giving no further details.

The high-profile announcement is just one of a string of agreements during King Salman’s visit, which began on Saturday. Egypt hopes the investment deals will help boost its battered economy.

More than a dozen other accords, including a memorandum of understanding to set up an industrial zone in Egypt, were also announced.

An Egyptian government official had said the deals agreed with Saudi Arabia, excluding the investment fund, would amount to $1.7 billion, according to Agence France-Presse.

Earlier on Saturday, Salman paid a visit to the prestigious Al-Azhar mosque.

He is due to address parliament on Sunday and receive an honorary doctorate from Cairo University on Monday.

"This visit comes as a confirmation of the pledges of brotherhood and solidarity before the two brotherly countries," Sisi said in a televised speech.

(With AFP)