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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Saudi crown prince to visit Egypt ahead of US, Britain tour

Prince Mohammed will visit Cairo for his first foreign tour as heir to the throne

Prince Mohammed attends the Annual Horse Race ceremony, in Riyadh. He is set to visit Egypt on Sunday for his first foreign tour as heir to the throne. Bandar Algaloud / Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court via Reuters
Prince Mohammed attends the Annual Horse Race ceremony, in Riyadh. He is set to visit Egypt on Sunday for his first foreign tour as heir to the throne. Bandar Algaloud / Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court via Reuters

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman will meet with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Sunday, as part of a three day trip to Egypt.

Saudi Arabia has bolstered Mr El Sisi with huge financial backing. It is estimated to have given Egypt billions of dollars in grants and soft loans in addition to free shipments of fuel worth tens of millions of dollars.

Riyadh counts Cairo among its Arab allies. Egypt supports the kingdom in a war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and joined a trade and diplomatic boycott of Qatar last year.

An Egyptian government source said on Thursday that Prince Mohammed's choice of Egypt for his maiden overseas trip as crown prince "reaffirms Saudi-Egyptian cooperation at the highest level".

The Crown Prince is also set to travel to London on March 7th, where Prime Minister Theresa May said she would welcome the prince and prioritise security, investment and education cooperation with the kingdom.

“The partnership between the UK and Saudi Arabia already helps make both of our countries safer through intelligence-sharing which has saved British lives, and more prosperous, with thousands of jobs created in the UK and substantial opportunities for British companies in Saudi Arabia,” said Mrs May. “The visit of the Crown Prince will establish the platform for that relationship to become even stronger.

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Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is set to chaperone the crown prince for parts of the visit.

"Look forward to welcoming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to UK – an opportunity for constructive foreign policy discussions and to offer UK support for his programme of reforms to create a more inclusive and diverse Saudi Arabia," Tweeted Mr Johnson.

Prince Mohammed is scheduled to visit the US on March 19, in an official visit that will include a meeting with President Donald Trump and key administration officials, before heading to France, in an effort to export the kingdom's new stamp of Saudi foreign policy.

Saudi Arabia has undergone sweeping changes since King Salman came to power three years ago, announcing major economic reforms, cracking down on the elite and allowing women more rights.

In February the kingdom appointed a woman as deputy Labour minister in a cabinet reshuffle aimed to promote young officials to prominent economic and security posts.

"You have a body that has cancer everywhere, the cancer of corruption. You need to have chemo, the shock of chemo, or the cancer will eat the body," the crown prince told the Washington Post in reference to the almost 400 people detained in the country's corruption crackdown.

Saudi authorities said the anti-corruption drive was aimed at improving the kingdom's business environment.