Saudi King Salman announced Friday an agreement with Egypt to build a bridge over the Red Sea connecting the two countries, on the second day of his visit to Cairo.
The Saudi monarch made the announcement in televised comments after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. “I agreed with my brother, his Excellency President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to build a bridge connecting the two countries,” Salman said. “This historic step to connect the two continents, Africa and Asia, is a qualitative transformation that will increase trade between the two continents to unprecedented levels,” he added. A beaming Sisi, who had minutes before presented the king with the ceremonial Nile Collar, suggested they name the bridge “King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Bridge”.
Following the announcement, representatives of both countries signed 17 investment deals and memorandums of understanding. A government official had said the deals agreed with Saudi Arabia throughout Salman’s visit would amount to about $1.7 billion (1.5 billion euros). They included an agreement to set up a university and homes in South Sinai, and a power plant.
Sunni ties that bind
Saudi Arabia — along with other Gulf kingdoms such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates – showered Egypt with billions of dollars in economic aid after Sisi ousted democratically-elected President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests. But falling oil prices have increased the pressure on Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf economies. Egypt is also struggling to jumpstart the country’s floundering economy. Despite the countries precarious economic outlooks, Saudi-Egypt ties remain strong with the region increasingly split between Sunni powers and Iran, the world’s Shiite powerhouse. With Iraq, Syria and Yemen immersed in civil war, and Saudi Arabia preoccupied by its region-wide rivalry with Iran, Riyadh is determined to stop the Egyptian state from failing. Saudi Arabia will likely continue giving aid to Egypt despite its own budgetary concerns, analysts say.