There is intense focus on the upcoming visit of Saudi King Salman to Egypt. Described by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry as historic, it will certainly disappoint many who have been betting on a rift between the two nations.
A significant part of the visit would be for Saudi Arabia to gain the support of Egypt, one of the most influential countries in the region, for the Kingdom’s strategic vision in the Middle East and globally.
There has been a significant leadership vacuum created in the Arab world after the so-called Arab Spring. This has allowed regional countries such as Iran to attempt to expand its influence by all means possible, including the backing and funding of various militant groups.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf states have a history of supporting Egypt, knowing that a strong Egypt contributes significantly to a resilient Arab world.
King Salman’s visit is indicative of the close ties between the two countries, particularly on regional issues. It flies in the face of those who have argued there is a divergence of views on Syria. Both countries have agreed that Syrians must govern themselves, and called for the withdrawal of all militias and foreign troops.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is keen to use its status in the Arab world, including at upcoming events such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in mid-April in Turkey, to smooth relations between Ankara and Cairo.
Riyadh’s foreign policy has long been focused on having good relations with all parties, and to work as a mediator to institute joint action, either through direct bilateral talks or by supporting work undertaken by the OIC, which is based in Saudi Arabia.
Observers have argued that Saudi-Turkish understanding on issues would have significant benefits for the region and fill the major void resulting from the United State’s ever-diminishing role here. The OIC’s 13th Islamic Summit from April 10 to 15 would be a chance to bridge the gap between Egypt and Turkey.
If the Egyptian leadership can eliminate bureaucracy and fight corruption, there is likely to be a flood of investments into Egypt, especially from the Gulf countries.Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia and Egypt enjoy strong ties, as reflected by the number of Egyptian workers in the Kingdom, its largest community abroad. There is also a substantial number of Saudis living in Egypt.
On the economic front, Saudis are still the largest foreign investors in Egypt, with a potential increase on the cards because King Salman has already ordered that investments should be raised to SR30 billion.
The commitment is such that the Saudi monarch will be accompanied by a large delegation of businesspeople, who have expressed a desire to place their money in the country.
However, concerns have been raised on the Saudi side about the creation of a conducive investment environment in Egypt. The country has huge, untapped potential. If the Egyptian leadership can eliminate bureaucracy and fight corruption, there is likely to be a flood of investments into Egypt, especially from the Gulf countries.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind what constitutes the major challenges in the region. The most obvious is Tehran’s interference in Arab affairs, which would have remained unchecked if it was not for Operation Decisive Storm. Egypt played a small but significant role in the coalition’s operations.
Considering the current state of the region and events taking place, the importance of the royal visit cannot be understated. Relations are likely to be further enhanced, boding well not only for the two nations, but also for Arabs across the region.
This article first appeared on Arab News on Apr. 06, 2016.
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi