A route of the proposed King Salman Bridge linking Saudi Arabia and Egypt, circulated on social media on Friday. Image Credit: Public domain

Cairo: Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi Friday said that a current visit to his country by Saudi King Salman Abdul Aziz heralds a “strategic partnership” between the two Arab allied countries.

“This visit lays down a solid foundation for a strategic partnership be-tween Egypt and Saudi Arabia and confronting unprecedented challenges the region,” the Egyptian leader told a joint press conference with the Saudi monarch.

“Coordination with Saudi Arabia represents a real springboard towards solving the region’s problems,” Al Sissi added at the conference, refer-ring to turbulence in Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Egypt is a partner to a Saudi-led military coalition that has since March 2015 been undertaking an aerial campaign in Yemen against rebels backed by Iran that is Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

Egypt has also joined an anti-terror Islamic coalition unveiled by Saudi Arabia late last year. However, unlike Saudi Arabia, Egypt has not called for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar as a solution to the Syrian conflict.

Addressing Friday’s press conference, King Salman announced a plan to build a bridge over the Red Sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia with the aim of boosting their trade exchange. Al Sissi said the bridge will be named after the Saudi king.

Trade ties

Egyptian-Saudi trade reached $4.9 billion last year, according to official figures.

The two leaders Friday also attended a ceremony marking the signing of 15 cooperation agreements covering a range of fields including trade, housing, transport, education, culture, manpower and a university in Egypt’s South Sinai.

Saudi Arabia is among Egypt’s top investors with an estimated 27 billion dollars.

At the start of the ceremony broadcast live on state television, Al Sissi decorated the Saudi monarch with Egypt’s prestigious medal, the Collar of the Nile.

King Salman arrived in Egypt Thursday for a five-day visit, his first to this most populous Arab country since he ascended to the throne more than a year.

The visit is seen as showing support for Al Sissi whose country is grappling with economic woes and Islamist insurgency.

King Salman is expected on Saturday to visit Al Azhar, Egypt’s influential Sunni Muslim seat of learning. On Sunday, he will address the Egyptian parliament. The Cairo University, Egypt’s leading public academic institution, has said it will offer an honorary doctorate to the Saudi leader.

Saudi Arabia has been a major diplomatic and financial backer of Egypt since the army’s mid-2013 overthrow of president Mohammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.