Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Monday night in Mecca, following the funeral of Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the world’s longest serving foreign minister.
Prince Saud, who died on Thursday, was replaced by diplomat Adel Al-Jubeir, owing to health complications in April after 40 years of representing the Kingdom abroad. Prince Saud’s period as foreign minister saw Saudi Arabia become an influential international state and numerous regional conflicts.
Speaking on Monday to King Salman, Shoukry expressed “his deep sympathy and condolences, and those of President Al-Sisi, the Egyptian government and people”. Shoukry also praised Saud’s role as a defender of Islam and the Arab people, according to a ministry handout. King Salman expressed appreciation for Egypt’s expression of condolences, and said that his country stands by Egypt in “the fight against terrorism, in their brotherly relations, and asked God to protect Egypt from evil”.
Following Sunday’s funeral, Shoukry also met Al-Jubeir and spoke of increasing attention to the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya after the festival of Eid.
Shoukry also participated, alongside other Arab foreign ministers, in funeral prayers on Saturday after Prince Saud’s death. Shoukry said: “The Egyptian people will never forget [Saud’s] remarkable support and assistance to Egypt and to the issues of the Arab peoples over the last four decades…the great Egyptian people will not forget his position in support of June 30,” referring to the 2013 Egyptian regime change.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s administration owes much to the Saudi kingdom. After the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s tumultuous economy was kept afloat with billions of dollars of GCC support, with Saudi Arabia the chief player leading the rally.
Two days after the bloody clearances of pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in August 2013 when over 600 protesters were killed by the security forces, King Abdullah came to the defence of Egypt’s military leadership. At the time, King Abdullah said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its people and government stood and stands by today with its brothers in Egypt against terrorism.”
Saudi Arabia pledged $5bn in cash, deposits and oil products days after the Egyptian army returned to power in July 2013. Then, following Al-Sisi’s presidential victory, a conference of donor countries occurred to finance over $60bn worth of projects in Egypt.
Egypt is a member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shi’a Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen since March, the coalition has continued to launch airstrikes across the country despite a UN-proposed truce for June. The UN reported that over 21 million people in Yemen require humanitarian assistance because of the conflict, around 80% of the population. In January, after the death of Salman’s predecessor King Abdullah, Al-Sisi instated an unprecedented seven days of national mourning.
Later, in June, a vast tranche of cables from the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry were leaked online that showed the country offered Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government in 2012 some $10bn to release ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
However, Prince Saud had also at times rebuked Egypt. During an Arab League meeting in March this year, he objected to President Al-Sisi’s decision to allow a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin to be read out. In the letter, President Putin said he would support peaceful resolutions to problems in the Arab world “without external influence”. However, the Saudi Foreign Minister said Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of the Syrian tragedy while being “an essential part of the tragedies” by arming the Syrian regime’s army “above and beyond what it needs”.