March 2, 2018 / 9:19 AM / 17 days ago

Saudi Crown Prince to make three-day Egypt visit

CAIRO (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman is to visit Egypt on Sunday to meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in his first public foreign trip since becoming crown prince last year, Sisi’s office said on Friday.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman attends the Annual Horse Race ceremony, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 30, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

The three-day visit will start on March 4, with the Saudi crown prince then travelling to London on March 7 and the United States, Riyadh’s closest Western ally, on March 19.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia have strengthened ties since Sisi took power after ousting the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. Cairo supports Riyadh in its fight against Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen and last year joined a Saudi-led boycott of Gulf state Qatar and agreed to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi despite widespread criticism at home.

Prince Mohammed has purged the Gulf Arab kingdom’s economic and political elite in a crackdown on corruption last year, after becoming crown prince in June.

A Saudi government spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Egypt visit. Egypt’s presidency gave no further details.

The visit comes weeks ahead of an election in which general-turned-president Sisi is seeking a second term and as Egyptian forces fight to crush Islamic State militants in the Sinai Peninsula.

Sisi is virtually guaranteed election victory after opponents have been jailed by Egyptian authorities, leaving only one little-known candidate who has publicly supported him.

As Egypt clamps down on internal dissent it has sided firmly with Saudi Arabia on key foreign policy issues, including the face-off between the Sunni kingdom and its Shi’ite foe Iran.

Reporting by John Davison, Abdel Nasser Aboul Fadl and Stephen Kalin in Riyadh; Editing by Janet Lawrence and David Goodman

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