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Arabic press round-up: 'Festival of happiness' greets King Salman in Cairo

Speculation in Arabic media that five-day visit by Saudi King could also be part of diplomatic efforts to repair Egyptian-Turkish relations
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with Saudi King Salman in Cairo on Thursday (AFP)

The arrival of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Cairo on Thursday marked the beginning of a “festival of happiness” for Egypt and a demonstration of the two countries’ “unbreakable” partnership, according to pro-government media commentators in both countries.

Expectations are high in the Egyptian media that King Salman’s five-day visit will be used to announce a new economic partnership and a range of projects that will bolster the country’s fragile finances.

Live footage on state television showed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greeting the 80-year-old Salman at Cairo airport, before heading off in a convoy to the presidential palace.

But Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya network also said that regional diplomacy and “strengthening Arab solidarity” would be high on the agenda, with discussions focusing on conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

“The visit come amid dangerous regional and international changes as well as widespread conflicts in the region in addition to the expansion of terrorist organisations. The visit aims at strengthening Arab solidarity as Egypt and Saudi Arabia face political and security challenges,” it said.

Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper went with the headline “Egypt, the heart of Abdulaziz and the soul of Kind Salman” as journalist Mohammad Al Said looked back on decades of close relations between the countries since the visit by King Abdulalziz Bin Saud to Egypt in 1946. Said highlighted Saudi support for Egypt such as the freeze on oil production on the eve of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

In another piece in Okaz Hamoud Abu Talib described the visit as a "festival of happiness in Egypt”.

Ayman Al Hamad, a columnist for the Al Riyad's newspaper, said that the visit was intended as a message to those who had attempted to damage relations between the two countries, and suggested that King Salman was ultimately working to also repair Turkish-Egyptian relations, which have been strained by Egypt's repression of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

"The relations between the two countries are strategic, relations unbreakable despite differences in some issues" said Hamad.

Reporting on a similar theme, the London-based Al Araby website revealed through "its diplomatic sources" that a reconciliation between Egypt, Hamas, Turkey and Qatar was on the agenda for the King’s visit, with Saudi Arabia seeking to establish itself as a leader of Muslim and Arab nations.

Writing for the Saudi Al Hayat newspaper, Khalid Al Dakhil said that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey were looking to build an alliance to counter growing Russian regional influence and waning American power.

Egyptian media gave full coverage of the visit, with state television welcoming Salman to his "second country" and playing celebratory music as his plane touched down in Cairo.

Egypt’s Al Ahram newspaper said King Salman would have a busy timetable, with 35 events scheduled over five days, including discussions about a new industrial zone and many other projects. The King is also due to address the Egyptian parliament on Sunday.

Youm7 newspaper said that Sisi had “released a hashtag to welcome the king: #EgyptWelcomesKing Salman”. Another article said that Cairo University had decided to grant King Salman an honorary doctorate title.

But some Egyptian media outlets sympathetic to the banned Muslim Brotherhood took a different tone, with the Elgornal website highlighting former senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Kamal al Hilbawi’s remarks that the visit was “a setback for the Muslim Brotherhood”.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Rassad website did not report on the visit itself, chosing instead to highlight speculation in the Egyptian media about “a possible reconciliation with Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood”.