RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi arrived Sunday to Saudi Arabia for his first bilateral policy meeting with the country’s new king ahead of a conference aimed at shoring up financial support from wealthy Gulf states for Egypt’s battered economy.
A Saudi official told The Associated Press the two leaders also would discuss Sissi’s proposal for a joint anti-terrorism force to tackle regional threats, particularly from Yemen, Libya and Syria. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
In an interview with the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya news channel broadcast this weekend, Sissi said the force would not be used for attacking “but for defending the security of our countries.”
He said Jordan has expressed interest in creating such a force, which could include Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Egyptian troops already are deployed on Saudi Arabia’s border with Iraq to help defend it against radical militants, according to Egyptian military and security officials.
King Salman and other royals greeted Sissi at the airport. The kingdom is a key organizer of the investment conference scheduled to take place later this month in the Red Sea city of Sharm el-Sheikh.
It marks the first meeting for the two since audio was leaked in February of Sissi allegedly poking fun at the Gulf’s immense oil wealth and saying “money there is like rice.” Members of his inner circle also purportedly derided Gulf countries as “half-states” and said they need Egypt’s help to defend themselves.
Egyptian authorities say the tapes were fabricated by ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group.
Sissi was last in Saudi Arabia in January to offer condolences after the death of King Abdullah. Under Abdullah’s rule, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations gave Egypt billions of dollars in aid after Sissi, then a military general, overthrew Morsi in 2013.
Salman is scheduled to meet Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong critic of Egypt’s Brotherhood crackdown. Sissi criticized Turkey in his Al-Arabiya interview, saying it “needed to halt its interference in Egypt.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press