Egypt-Saudi ties under spotlight as Mursi pays first official visit to kingdom


Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi will begin an official visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. His expected meetings with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz will mostly focus on means to cement ties between the two nations.

In anticipation with the visit, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat published a report tracing the thriving ties between the two countries, which date back to decades ago.

The Saudi envoy to Cairo, Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz al-Qattan, who is also the kingdom’s permanent representative in the Arab League, was quoted by Saudi daily as saying that the period ahead will likely witness an increase in Saudi investments in Egypt.

However, he added that Saudi-Egyptian ties were not just limited to economic collaboration: “The relations are deeper than that.”

According to the London-based daily, Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia will probably bring into light the relation between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the kingdom.

The first visit of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, to Saudi Arabia dates back to 1936, when he met the founder of the kingdom, King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who was keen (like his sons after him) to receive senior personalities and officials, as well as religious scholars after the end of al-Hajj season. At that time, Banna was among the top religious characters and he enjoyed close ties with King Abdul Aziz.

In a photograph dating back to that visit, Banna stood next to King Abdul Aziz who talked about the future of Egyptian-Saudi relations. Banna could not hide his admiration when he asked King Abdul Aziz to open a branch for the Brotherhood in the kingdom. The late king replied: “We are all Muslim Brothers.”

Banna noted in his memoirs that Saudi Arabia was “one of the sources of hope for Islam and Muslims.” It was clear that Banna admired King Abdul Aziz and Saudi Arabia.

Many politicians and economic analysts believe President Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia is of special significance because it supports the commonalities between the two nations, whose foundations were laid by King Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Relations between the two nations were based on the intermarriage between their societies. Egypt hosts more than 700,000 Saudi family members who reside there, or were sent by the Saudi government, to study in Egypt.

Saudi Arabia has around 1.7 million Egyptians who work in several domains. The number of Egyptian pilgrims is estimated at 1.5 million per year and Saudi tourists in Egypt account for half a million tourists per year. Moreover, the Kingdom participated in the war of 1973 in order to support the Arab stance.

According to Asharq al-Awsat report, the Saudi-Egyptian axis plays a prominent role in the stability of the Arab region. This axis also responds to the needs of each phase depending on the regional and global developments and based on the strong ties between the two countries and people that contribute in the rapprochement and stability in the region.

The Egyptian Consul in Jeddah, Ali Al Aachry, was quoted as saying that Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia is a highly important event because it was his first foreign visit, which in itself underlines the strong relations between the two countries and its people.

Recent reports have shown an increase in the size of commercial exchange between Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the first quarter of 2012. Commercial exchange has increased by 50 percent, which is estimated at $1.21 billion. Saudi imports to Egypt have been valued at $682 million while the total value of Egyptian exports to Saudi Arabia reached $528 million in comparison to the same period last year when it recorded an average of $800 million. In 2011, the gross trade exchange reached around $4.75 billion while total investments in Egypt were estimated at $27 billion.

Saudi Arabia has investments in 779 projects in Egypt, providing around 88,000 jobs.

“Egypt enjoys a privileged position in the hearts of the Saudi people and government because it represents a long ancient history that attracts people from all over the world and because it is currently a large country that embraces all Arab citizens and highly contributes in the economy of the Arab region,” Abdullah bin Said Al-Moubti, President of the Council of Saudi Chambers, told Asharq al-Awsat.

“We are determined to enforce the common interests with Egypt in order to consolidate the strategic ties with this country in all economic levels. Egypt’s economic and political importance is currently growing to enhance its pivotal role and increase its responsibilities in the Arab context due to its important position and status in the Arab economy,” he said.