CAIRO, April 9, (Agencies): Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayeb called on Saturday for unity among all Muslims against growing challenges in the Islamic world.
This call came after a first time visit of its kind for a Saudi monarch to the Al-Azhar institution where the monarch and the Grand Imam discussed, among other things, means of combating extremism and terrorism, said a statement issued by the Al-Azhar.
Both dignitaries emphasized the need for both Saudi Arabia and Al-Azhar to guard the core values of Islam while rejecting religious extremism.
They stressed the imperative “to disseminate the culture of peace, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence,” said the statement, adding that “Saudi Arabia and Al-Azhar would remain steadfast partners against terrorism.” Al-Tayeb expressed his profound appreciation for the laudable role Saudi Arabia continually plays vis-a-vis issues dear to the minds and hearts of the Muslim world, a role that upholds the fundamentals of promoting peace and shared coexistence.
On his part, the Saudi monarch praised the Al-Azhar institution for promoting tolerance and discrediting extremism and terrorism. The Saudi guest toured the institution’s facilities and expressed admiration for them. He is currently on a five-day visit to Egypt.
Saudi King Salman on Friday announced plans to build a bridge over the Red Sea to Egypt, in a lavish show of support for the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The 80-year-old monarch is on a rare five-day trip to Egypt, a country that Riyadh views as a cornerstone to its ambitions in the changing region. Saudi Arabia has been the key backer of Sisi since 2013, when the then-army chief overthrew his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood movement was viewed with suspicion by Riyadh. King Salman, who touched down in Cairo on Thursday to a lavish welcome, made the announcement after meeting Sisi at the president’s Ittahidiya Palace. “I agreed with my brother his excellency President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to build a bridge connecting the two countries,” Salman said. “This historic step to connect the two continents, Africa and Asia, is a qualitative transformation that will increase trade between the two continents to unprecedented levels,” he added.
A beaming Sisi, who minutes earlier had presented the king with the ceremonial Nile Collar, suggested naming the structure the “King Salman bin Abdulaziz Bridge”. The idea of a causeway between the two countries had been floated before, especially by ousted Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, but never made it past the planning stage. Thousands of Saudi tourists visit Egypt annually, and thousands of Egyptians visit Saudi Arabia each year for Muslim pilgrimage. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians work in the oil-rich kingdom and send home much-needed remittances.
Following King Salman’s announcement, representatives of both countries signed 17 investment deals and memorandums of understanding. A government official had said the deals agreed with Saudi Arabia throughout King Salman’s visit would amount to about $1.7 billion (1.5 billion euros). They included an agreement to set up a university and homes in South Sinai, as well a power plant. The Saudis are expected to make another major announcement on Saturday, according to the kingdom’s ambassador to Egypt. “The investment deals that will be signed on Saturday evening will be a surprising amount that will please everyone,” Ahmed Qattan wrote on Twitter.
On Friday, both leaders lavished praise on each other’s country and their relationship. “This visit comes as a confirmation of the pledges of brotherhood and solidarity before the two brotherly countries,” Sisi said in a televised speech. “I believe that the special nature of the Saudi-Egyptian relationship … will enable us to confront together shared challenges and to deal seriously with whoever tries to harm Arab national security,” Sisi said. The visit follows months of reports in both Saudi and Egyptian newspapers of strained ties over Cairo’s unwillingness to participate fully in Saudi-led military operations against Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen.