Egypt’s leader makes snap Saudi visit as economic woes mount


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia for a brief visit late Sunday, state media said, as the North African country grapples with serious economic difficulties.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed Sisi at Jeddah airport and the 37-year-old removed herself again several hours later, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Few details were given about the meeting, but Egypt’s import-dependent economic fortunes have crumbled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent wheat prices skyrocketing, fueling rampant inflation.

Saudi Arabia, which will host an Arab League summit next month, is also undertaking a significant de-escalation in the troubled region, signaling a return to diplomatic relations with Iran, the arch-rival, after a gap of seven years.

“They discussed developments in the regional and international situation and the efforts made to address them, as well as to address all issues that concern them,” said the SPA.

Sisi’s visit comes after Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said in January that oil-rich Riyadh would stop providing unconditional aid to Egypt, prompting a brief rift between the two countries’ state-linked media.

The editor-in-chief of a state-owned Egyptian newspaper was forced to apologize to the Arab people for an article at the time. An Egyptian official told AFP that higher authorities in Cairo had intervened to moderate the sweep.

The Egyptian pound has lost half its value over the past year, pushing annual inflation to 32.9 percent in February.

Of Cairo’s $34.2 billion in foreign reserves in February — a 20 percent drop from a year earlier — about $28 billion are deposits from wealthy Gulf allies.

But Sisi’s Gulf allies – whose support he counted on after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 – are now demanding economic reform and greater transparency in return for their largesse.

As part of its regional de-escalation, Riyadh announced talks with Syria on resuming consular services after a nearly 10-year hiatus.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks their ally Cairo has welcomed the foreign ministers of both Syria and Turkey for the first time in a decade.

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