Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi expressed his happiness at meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a surprise meeting that took place on Sunday night. They gathered for Ramadan in the wake of an important visit by the Syrian foreign minister to Egypt and rumors that Saudi Arabia may normalize relations with Syria.
Bilateral ties between Riyadh and Cairo were the key feature of the evening as the important leaders met. Egypt is supported by Saudi investment. The two leaders discussed "the common interests and aspirations of the two great peoples," reports said. El-Sisi arrived a few hours earlier, on Sunday night, in Jeddah and was received by the Crown Prince at the airport.
“During their meeting, Bin Salman welcomed El-Sisi in his second country, Saudi Arabia, while the later expressed appreciation for the warm welcome and generous hospitality accorded to him and the accompanying delegation,” Saudi state media said. “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,” the Saudis said.
Saudi meetings with regional leaders being watched closely
These meetings are being watched closely in the region. They are of importance for Syria and Iran, as well as the UAE and the Gulf in general. Reports in the West have sought to portray Riyadh as potentially reducing investment in Egypt. However, it appears that Egypt-Saudi ties are as strong as ever. The meeting comes as the UAE has also said it is seeking to strengthen partnership with Somalia. Somalia is not directly connected to Egypt, but both countries are in the same general region of Africa and these reports represent the kind of investments that will be seen in North and East Africa by the Gulf states.
Reports in the UAE say that the meeting between Egypt and Saudi has important ramifications for the region. The Al-Ain report says that these meetings could impact security and stability in the Red Sea area, as well as Yemen, Libya, relations with Syria, as well as northern Syria, discussions about Sudan and Ethiopia, and also discussions about the Palestinians. This means it may impact Israel as well. While the interviews that Al-Ain conducted about this meeting mostly promoted general “brotherly” relations in the region, it is clear that there is weight given to these meetings and they are seen as symbolically important. Clearly the Syrian foreign ministerial visit to Egypt on April 1 is linked to the trip to Saudi Arabia. Sisi appears to be engaging in shuttle diplomacy and sounding out the ties that Saudi could rekindle with Syria. This is part of a new rush for reconciliation and diplomacy that the Middle East has seen over the last several months.