Saudi's Bin Salman talks about megacity project in South Sinai, 'triangle of evil' during Egypt visit

Ahram Online , Tuesday 6 Mar 2018

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tour the Suez canal near Ismailia, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Cairo, Egypt Egypt's state news agency, MENA

Egypt and Saudi Arabia have signed an agreement allotting 1,000 square kilometres of land in South Sinai for a megacity project as part of the kingdom’s mammoth NEOM project, Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman said on Monday evening during a meeting with several Egyptian media figures in Cairo.

Prominent Egyptian TV presenter Lamis El-Hadeedi said on the privately owned CBC satellite channel that Bin Salman spoke about “everything,” answering questions on democracy and reforms in the kingdom, NEOM, Jerusalem, Israel and Qatar.

Bin Salman said Saudi Arabia will be investing in the land in South Sinai through a fund agreement worth $10 billion signed on Sunday between the two countries.

The NEOM project, which involves the creation of a huge transnational city and economic zone, covers 26,500 square kilometres in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

NEOM is the latest and most ambitious in a slate of privatisation programmes in Saudi Arabia, led by the floatation of the Saudi oil company Aramco.

The $500 billion zone, which is adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba and near maritime trade routes that use the Suez Canal, will utilise the proposed King Salman Bridge, which will link Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The Crown Prince said he was planning to establish a "Red Sea Riviera" with the new city.

Bin Salman also spoke about Saudi Arabia's relationship with Egypt, describing it as “deep” and “historic.”

“There is a compatibility on viewpoints; we have the same allies and the same foes,” Bin Salman said.

He also praised several national projects he toured with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in the Suez Canal zone on Monday morning.

“The projects I have seen portray positivity and optimism. This is the Pharaonic motivation,” he said.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the 'triangle of evil'

Bin Salman said Egypt and Saudi Arabia's foes are represented in a "triangle of evil," which comprises Turkey, Iran and terrorist organisations.

He said Turkey and its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are trying to build a new "Ottoman caliphate," while Iran is attempting to “export revolutions” in the region.

“We [Saudi Arabia] have managed to besiege Iran and its threats, including those in Yemen, and we were not dragged into war with Iran as it was trying to bait us,” he said.

President El-Sisi has repeatedly said during a number of visits to the Gulf region and in press interviews that Gulf security is indivisible from Egypt’s own national security.

He said that he and his "brothers" in the Gulf and other Arab states can fight terrorism if they are united, adding that the "evil powers" who seek to target Egypt are the same powers that seek to target the whole region.

'Deal with Qatar like Cuba'

On Qatar, the Saudi prince said he does not personally consider the conflict with Qatar an important one to look at, adding that he does not review the issue on a periodical basis.

In June 2017, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE severed diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran, which Doha has denied.

Since then, the four countries have issued lists designating entities and individuals with links to Qatar as being involved in terrorist activities.

“Qatar is only a stage and a treasury used by the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said, adding that he rejects any foreign intervention, especially by the US, to resolve the crisis between the four Arab allies and Qatar, maintaining that it should be settled among the Arab states.

According to the Saudi Crown Prince, the Qatar situation could be handled similar to the way the US dealt with Cuba, which the US had isolated economically and diplomatically for decades.

No exchange of lands for 'deal of the century'

On Palestine, the Crown Prince dismissed any notion of an exchange of lands with Israel, including in Egypt, to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.

“Our aim is to unify political Palestinian leadership, so when we are on the negotiation table there would be a unified leadership,” he said.

The so-called "deal of the century" — a plan purportedly development by the US — allegedly excludes Jerusalem from a future Palestinian state as part of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which many say has been significantly hampered by the US' recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last December.

'I serve my country, religion through reforms'

The Saudi prince also spoke about the kingdom's crackdown on corruption in November 2017, where a number of prominent businessmen and Saudi officials were detained at the Ritz Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital.

They were later released from detention following monetary settlements with the Saudi government.

“I was not worried because what I wanted was to avert corruption, hold those corruptors accountable, and achieve economic and national interests. And as I was following the law, I was not worried,” he said.

On the ongoing reforms in Saudi Arabia, including restricting of the power and influence of the Saudi "virtue police" as well as allowing women to drive, Bin Salman said that he wanted to “serve my country, religion and generation.”

“I faced a lot of obstacles, but I was persistent in achieving this openness,” he said.

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