Riyadh — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is due to meet with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi on Sunday in Cairo, at the start of his first foreign trip since becoming the kingdom’s heir apparent last June.
“President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi will receive the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman as a dear guest in his second homeland Egypt for a three-day visit,” Egyptian presidential spokesman Bassam Radi said in a statement on Friday without details.
Their talks are expected to focus on enhancing ties between the two Arab allies in different fields.
Saudi Arabia is Egypt’s top Arab investor with around $27 billion, according to Egyptian figures.
Al Sissi and Prince Mohammad will also discuss the conflict in Yemen where Saudi Arabia is leading a military campaign against Iran-allied militia, Egyptian media reported. Their talks will also tackle Syria’s seven-year-old strife and Iran’s meddling in Arab region, the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram said.
His visit to Cairo also comes before Egypt’s presidential polls in late March, with incumbent Al Sissi expected to win a second four-year term.
“Prince Mohammad’s visit will be interpreted as proof of Saudi support for Al Sissi to remain as the president of Egypt in the coming term,” Mustafa Kamel Al Sayed, a political-science professor at Cairo University, told AFP.
A Saudi government source said Prince Mohammad’s choice of Egypt for his maiden overseas trip as crown prince “reaffirms Saudi-Egyptian cooperation at the highest level”.
Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to Cairo comes ahead of a scheduled trip to Britain on Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May and the United States from March 19-22.
The trips are aimed partly at courting investors and come after a period that saw a major military shake-up and a royal purge.
A shake-up announced on Monday saw military top brass, including the chief of staff and heads of the ground forces and air defence, replaced.
The British government said Prince Mohammad’s upcoming visit will help enhance cooperation in tackling challenges such as “terrorism, extremism, the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen”.
The crown prince’s visit to the United States in late March, which a Saudi government source said could include multiple cities, would highlight the Trump administration’s efforts to sign a nuclear cooperation accord with Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh is expected to announce this year who will build the first two of up to 16 reactors, and negotiations are under way with the United States for its agreement to export technology needed for their construction.
Besides the US company Westinghouse, Russian, French, Chinese and South Korean firms have all been seeking the Saudi contracts.
Another key focus could be the Aramco initial public offering.
The kingdom is preparing to sell under five per cent of its state-owned oil giant, the crown jewel of the Saudi economy, in what is expected to be the world’s largest ever IPO.
“Prince Mohammad may seek to foster a competitive rivalry between a UK government desperate to attract Saudi investment to offset the Brexit chaos and his US hosts, particularly over the Aramco IPO,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in the United States.
US President Donald Trump hosted Prince Mohammad in March 2017, just weeks after taking office, and he chose Saudi Arabia for his first official overseas visit as president.
Saudi Arabia has grown close to its longtime ally Washington under Trump.
—With inputs from agencies