Saudi crown prince kicks off Mideast tour with Egypt visit ahead of Biden trip

CAIRO (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Cairo on Monday on the first leg of a Middle East tour that comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to the region next month.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt received bin Salman at the airport, a courtesy to the de-facto leader who is a steady financial backer of the Egyptian government, according to the Egyptian presidency.

Both leaders are scheduled to hold talks in the country’s presidential palace in Cairo on Tuesday. The Saudi crown prince, who is commonly referred to by his initials MBS, will then depart to Jordan for talks with its monarch, King Abdullah II, also a close ally of Saudi Arabia.

Bin Salman is then scheduled to travel to Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Saudi Arabia in April for the first time in five years as the two countries repair ties. Saudi-Turkey relations frayed following the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

The crown prince’s talks in Cairo and Amman aim at coordinating their positions on key issues, Saudi officials told The Associated Press last week ahead of a joint summit with President Joe Biden in Jeddah next month. The summit will also include Iraq’s prime minister and other Gulf leaders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the tour.

Biden is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia at the tail end of his July 13-16 Middle East trip that includes stops in Israel and the West Bank. He will hold talks with the crown prince as part of an effort to reset US-Saudi ties. The administration could use help from the oil-rich kingdom to alleviate soaring prices at the pump for motorists at home and around the globe.

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and Saudi Arabia one of the wealthiest. They tightened their longstanding alliance after el-Sissi, then the defense minister, led the military overthrow of an elected Islamist president in 2013 amid popular protests against his divisive one-year rule. Since then, Riyadh has provided tens of billions of dollars in aid and investment which helped float the Egyptian economy.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates pledged a total of $22 billion in the form of deposits and direct investments in Egypt in a bid to stabilize its battered economy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war in Europe has rattled the global economy and caused oil prices to soar, its ripples have been felt in countries around the world.

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