Egypt to donate slice of Sinai to Saudi mega-development


As demonstrators will make clear during this week's visit by the kingdom's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the war in Yemen is also Britain's problem: the bombardment is being waged with our kit, the victims being tended with our aid.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, respectively the richest and most populous Arab states, have strengthened their strategic ties since Sisi came to power in 2013.

Saudi Arabia wants to attract more European tourists to its Red Sea coast, and in August past year announced another ambitious plan to create a new global tourism destination on the coast featuring 50 pristine islands, white sandy beaches, and pre-Islamic history and culture.

But as it emerged that the Crown Prince will be treated to what is effectively a state visit in all but name - with a trip to the PM's country home in Chequers as well as Buckingham Palace - critics were furious at the mixed messages.

The Egyptian Christian community supported President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when he deposed the Muslim Brotherhood's President Mohamed Morsi but later grew restless as Sisi had difficulty protecting Christians from extremist attacks.

Amnesty International UK's Director, Kate Allen, also said Britain should suspend arms exports to the country. "This is a visit of love and peace".

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"We believe that Saudi Arabia needs to be part of the global economy", Prince Mohammed told me. Earlier this week hundreds of Saudi women runners, many of them dressed in traditional clothing, participated in the country's first female running race. "We know our Egyptian Christian children who work in Saudi Arabia receive a lot of love and they always speak highly of the Saudi government". "Because of our dominant position, Saudi Arabia is the key to the economic success of the region".

For his part, MBS reported spoke highly of Coptic Christians and praised their contributions to the stability of Egypt.

The reform program is encouraged by the International Monetary Fund provided Egypt with a 12-billion-dollar loan, half of which has already been delivered to the most populous Arab country.

Which explains why Prince Mohammed is going out of his way to stress the importance of the UK-Saudi relationship during this week's visit to Britain.

Speaking about choosing Egypt to be Bin Salman's first stop in his first foreign tour, Fahmy said that Egypt is a country with weight, pointing out "it is normal for Cairo to be the first foreign stop for Prince Mohammed Bin Salman".

Salman's visit also included a meeting with Pope Tawadros II and an inspection of the Suez Canal.