Saudi Prince seals US$7.7b in Egypt deals at start of tour

Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed almost $8 billion in deals as the oil-rich kingdom’s crown prince began a Middle East tour aimed at promoting his role as a regional power-broker.

The two nations signed 14 investment pacts valued at US$7.7 billion, Egyptian state-run Middle East News Agency reported Tuesday, covering sectors including renewables, pharmaceuticals and e-commerce.

Among them was an agreement with ACWA Power to generate and transfer electricity and produce energy from wind, while Al Fanar International Development signed deals to produce wind energy and green hydrogen, according to an Egyptian cabinet statement.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Egypt on Monday, in the first leg of a trip that takes him to Jordan and former regional foe Turkey next. His rare travels come ahead of a visit by President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia, where he’ll attend a regional leaders summit arranged by the world’s largest oil exporter.

The visits are part of Prince Mohammed’s push to reposition Saudi Arabia as the Middle East’s main powerhouse — and himself as the region’s chief bridge-builder — at a time when close Gulf ally the United Arab Emirates is also jockeying for that role.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, is also looking to reclaim its traditional status as the go-to nation for regional security — a standing it saw wane in the wake of the 2011 ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Turkey and Iran, both of which promote political and security positions largely at odds with those embraced by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are vying to expand their clout.

The Saudi ambassador to the Arab League, in an emailed statement, sought to drive home the importance of Egypt and the kingdom in addressing challenges in Arab countries, saying that there is joint “political will commensurate with the Arab and international political weight of the two countries.”

The crown prince is expected to discuss improving ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday — a push that comes after years of rivalry and rancor between the two nations.

That tension was exacerbated by the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The Turkish leader is trying to boost ties with Saudi Arabia and other regional neighbors as he aims to increase trade and lure investment.

“We came up [to the darbar sahib] to see what this joke is happening in our gurdwara today,” said one of the woman volunteers. “They came to our gurdwara, we didn’t go to their place.” –Bloomberg