Egypt’s president makes first trip to Saudi Arabia
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Egypt’s interim president visited Saudi Arabia on Monday for his first foreign trip, highlighting a regional realignment spurred by the military ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Cairo.
Underscoring the tightening of relations between the two regional powerhouses, Adly Mansour was greeted in Riyadh airport by the kingdom’s Defense Minister and Crown Prince Salman.
Saudi Arabia has cemented itself as the new Egyptian leadership’s staunchest supporter since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted July 3, showering the interim government with $5 billion in critical aid and leading a foreign diplomacy blitz with Western nations to soften their stances toward the coup that ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president.
Mansour met in Jiddah with King Abdullah, who was quoted in the state-run Saudi Press Agency after their meeting as saying his kingdom is “standing against any attempts to touch Egypt’s internal affairs, particularly by the terrorists.”
Arab Gulf officials and their Egyptian counterparts often refer to members of former President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group as terrorists. More than 2,000 Brotherhood members have been arrested in Egypt, most accused of inciting or taking part in violence.
Emboldened by Egypt’s fierce crackdown of the Brotherhood, several Arab Gulf states have also stepped up their clampdown of suspected Brotherhood members and Islamists, whom they see as a threat to the Gulf’s tightly run fraternity of monarchs, sheiks and emirs.
In one example of the Gulf’s elation with the Brotherhood’s ouster, state-run telecommunications company Etisalat in the United Arab Emirates sent out text messages over the weekend wishing Egyptians a “Happy Armed Forces Day” to celebrate Egypt’s national holiday. The text appeared on phones of customers in the UAE.
In another example, Mansour told the pan-Arab al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that Saudi’s King Abdullah was the first world leader to congratulate him after being named interim president in a message that said Egypt had “emerged from a tunnel.”
Though Saudi Arabia and Egypt have long had close ties and Morsi too made his first foreign visit as president to the kingdom in 2012, relations quickly soured when he warmed up to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s foe. Morsi’s government aligned closely with the tiny Gulf nation of Qatar, which gave his regime $8 billion in aid.
In his interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat, published Monday, Mansour said that Egypt’s fight against terrorism is integral for his country’s security and for the security of Arab Gulf states.
He said the Brotherhood is “reeling from a major shock” and “in denial” that they came to power and “failed.” “Until this moment they are still living in their own world,” he said.
Mansour, formerly a judge, lived in Saudi Arabia for six years during the 1980s and worked in the kingdom as an advisor to the Commerce Ministry. He said Saudi Arabia’s position toward Egypt’s new leadership was steadfast and that his visit was to primarily thank the kingdom for its support.
“Egypt is indispensable to the Arabs and Arabs are indispensable to Egypt,” he told the newspaper. “Egypt and the majority of Arab Gulf nations are linked by a wide network of strategic interests.”
The relationship, though, is not without its differences. Saudi Arabia is arming rebels in Syria seeking to topple President Bashar Assad, but Egypt’s government is calling for a political solution to the civil war.
Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.