Egypt's leader makes snap Saudi visit as economic woes mount

Egypt's leader makes snap Saudi visit as economic woes mount

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Jeddah airport
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Jeddah airport. Photo: - / Saudi Royal Palace/AFP
Source: AFP

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler on a brief visit late on Sunday, state media said, as the North African country grapples with severe economic difficulties.

Sisi was greeted at Jeddah airport by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and was waved off again several hours later by the 37-year-old, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Few details were given about the meeting, but import-dependent Egypt's economic fortunes have plunged since Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent wheat prices soaring, fuelling rampant inflation.

Saudi Arabia, which will host an Arab League summit next month, is also engaging in significant de-escalation in the turbulent region, signalling a return to diplomatic relations with arch-rival Iran after a seven-year gap.

"They discussed developments in the regional and international situation and the efforts exerted in addressing them, in addition to tackling all issues of common concern," SPA said.

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Sisi's visit comes after Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said in January that oil-rich Riyadh would stop providing unconditional aid to Egypt, setting off a brief spat between state-linked media in both countries.

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The editor-in-chief of a state-owned Egyptian newspaper was forced to apologise to the Saudi people over an article at the time. An Egyptian official told AFP that higher authorities in Cairo intervened to defuse the squabbling.

The Egyptian pound has lost half of its value in the past year, propelling annual inflation to 32.9 percent in February.

Of the $34.2 billion in Cairo's foreign reserves in February -– a 20 percent drop from a year earlier –- some $28 billion are deposits from wealthy Gulf allies.

But Sisi's Gulf allies -- on whose support he relied after deposing Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 -- are now demanding economic reform and greater transparency in return for their largesse.

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As part of its regional de-escalation, Riyadh has announced talks with Syria on resuming consular services after a break of nearly 10 years.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks its ally Cairo has welcomed the foreign ministers of both Syria and Turkey for the first time in a decade.

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Source: AFP

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