Egypt's President Morsi to visit Saudi Arabia on Wednesday

Ahram Online, Tuesday 10 Jul 2012

In first trip abroad as Egyptian head of state, president Mohamed Morsi – with host of cabinet ministers in tow – will visit oil-rich kingdom on Wednesday

Mohamed Morsi
President Mohamed Morsi (Photo:AP)

Representatives of the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party, the Nasserist Karama Party and the Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development Party (BDP) on Tuesday all stressed the importance of recently-inaugurated President Mohamed Morsi making his first trip abroad as Egyptian head of state to Saudi Arabia.

Morsi is expected to visit the kingdom on Wednesday.

Wasat Party MP Mohamed Samman told Egypt's official state news agency MENA that, in light of the "special roles" played by Saudi and Egypt in the region, it was important that Morsi begin his tenure as Egypt's first freely-elected president with a visit to the kingdom.

As for the sensitive issue of Egyptian citizens currently detained in Saudi Arabia, Samman expressed confidence in the Saudi judicial system.

He went on to predict that Morsi's discussions with his Saudi interlocutors would cover the ongoing armed insurgency in Syria, along with Riyadh's relations with Israel and Iran. Samman proposed that Morsi's second trip as president be to neighbouring Sudan, which he described as Egypt's "gate to Africa."

Abdul Aziz Al-Husseini, organisational secretary for the nationalist Karama Party, said it was "only logical" that the president’s first visit be to Saudi Arabia. He called the kingdom "one of the most influential countries in the Middle East due to its religious foundations and its economic strength."

Al-Husseini went on to point out that Saudi Arabia played an active role in both pan-Arab relations and in Egypt's revolution and subsequent democratic transition.

Following Egypt's Tahrir Square uprising early last year, Riyadh pledged some $4 billion in assistance to Egypt in the form of long-term loans and grants to help prop up the country's struggling economy.

Saudi Arabia has also offered $1 billion to Egypt's Central Bank and another $500 million in general economic assistance. The oil-rich kingdom has also allocated $250 million for gas exports to Egypt, Saudi ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Qattan was quoted as saying by MENA.

BDP spokesman Safwat Abdul-Ghany, for his part, said the president’s scheduled visit to Saudi was necessary for maintaining Egypt's leading role and influence in the Gulf area. "The president must strengthen bonds and eliminate fears about the Muslim Brotherhood's new leading position in Egypt," he said.

Morsi will be travelling with a delegation of government ministers, including Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, Industry and Trade Minister Mahmoud Eissa, International Cooperation Minister Fayza Abul-Naga and presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.

He is expected to arrive at King Abdul Aziz Airport in Jeddah, where he will be greeted by Saudi Crown Prince, Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister Salman Bin Abdul Aziz; Prince of Mecca Khaled Al-Faysal; Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mahmoud Auf; General Consul of Jeddah Ali Al-Asheiry; Saudi ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Qattan; and a number of diplomatic delegations in Jeddah and representatives of Saudi's Egyptian community.

After a state dinner with Saudi Monarch Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, Morsi will then head to the Egyptian consulate where he will meet members of Saudi's Egyptian expat community.

On Wednesday evening, Morsi will perform the Umrah pilgrimage. He will then head to the city of Madina on Thursday, where he will visit the Mosque of the Prophet before returning to Cairo.

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