Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour arrived in Riyadh yesterday as part of his first overseas trip, a visit that analysts and officials said was intended to thank Saudi Arabia for its political and economic support.
Saudi’s King Abdullah was the first Arab leader to recognise congratulate Mr Mansour’s government and pledged US$5 billion in aid to Egypt after Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was removed from power in July.
“Visiting the kingdom was a must, as I had to thank the custodian of the two holy mosques (King Abdullah) personally on his supportive stances that comforted the Egyptians,” Mr Mansour told the Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat.
With the Egyptian economy in turmoil, Mr Mansour will be relying on continued support from Saudi Arabia.
“The goal here is to deepen the relationship with Saudi at a time when Egypt needs Saudi more than ever,” said Shadi Hamid, fellow at the Brookings Institution in Doha.
After Egypt’s military removed a widely unpopular Mr Morsi on July 3, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait offered the interim government a combined $12bn in aid.
The Gulf countries also offered quick political support to the new leaders while Qatar, the US and European nations raised concerns about Mr Morsi’s removal from power. Doha had pledged $5bn to Mr Morsi’s government but Mr Mansour’s interim government rejected the Qatari loan on the grounds it had come with conditions.
Mr Mansour told Asharq Al Awsat that Egypt “will not accept anything which interferes with their sovereignty, and they will not accept any encroachment upon their internal affairs”.
“If we feel any suspicion, our response will be immediate, as happened with our decision to reject the Qatari loan,” said Mr Mansour.
The Saudi foreign minister, Saud Al Faisal, said in August that his country was prepared to compensate Egypt for any aid that was withdrawn as a result of the political transition.
Egypt’s deputy foreign minister for Arab Affairs, Nasser Kamel, said Mr Mansour’s visit would emphasise “thanksgiving” during his visit to Saudi Arabia for its steadfast support of his interim government.
“This visit to [is meant to] give thanks and appreciation to the Kingdom for its role in the support of Egypt,” Egypt’s deputy foreign minister for Arab Affairs Nasser Kamel said at a forum hosted by Saudi daily Okaz in Cairo on Sunday.
Mr Kamel said he also expected Mr Mansour and Saudi officials to discuss Syria.
Mr Mansour met King Abdullah as well as Crown Prince Salman, foreign minister Saudi Al Faisal, second deputy premier Prince Muqrin, and other top Saudi officials.
In their conversations, King Abdullah “confirmed the stance of the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supporting the brothers in Egypt against terrorism and sedition”, the state news agency reported.
Saudi Arabia’s economic support will be vital to the transitional government’s success, analysts say. Egypt’s economy has struggled to recover from the recession that hit soon after its 2011 revolution.
As protests have devolved into violent clashes in recent months, tourism and investment have stalled.
“It goes without saying that the support provided by Saudi Arabia and our Arab brothers has had the greatest impact in prying Egyptian decision making away from the pressures of the deteriorating economic situation,” Mr Mansour told Asharq Al Awsat.
Mr Hamid said that Gulf aid could be needed for months to come.
“There isn’t going to be the kind of stability or security in Egypt that’s necessary to get the economy back on track, so Saudi economic support is going to continue being important not just in the short term but also in the medium term as well.”
Analysts say Saudi Arabia prioritised its relationship with the military-backed government in Cairo out of security concerns as well.
Mr Morsi’s tenure was met with scepticism by many in Riyadh, who criticised the Egyptian president’s foreign policies, including his visit to Iran and a speech in which Mr Morsi seemed to encourage Muslim Brotherhood supporters to join the armed conflict in Syria.