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Bin Salman in Cairo after Egypt fully cedes sovereignty over islands

A handout picture released by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) welcoming Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon his arrival in Cairo on March 4, 2018. (AFP photo)

Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has finally begun his tour of Egypt a day after the North African country ignored public discontent and cleared all legal hurdles impeding the transfer of two Red Sea islands to the kingdom.

Bin Salam was greeted in Cairo International Airport on Sunday by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the incumbent president who heavily counts on Saudi support to remain in office after this month's presidential election.

The office of the Egyptian presidency said Salman and Sisi held a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Sunday and discussed with him “regional issues” and "ways of combating terrorism”.  Bin Salman is slated to travel to the US later this month after stays in Egypt and in the United Kingdom.

The trip to Egypt is first for bin Salman since he was appointed heir to the throne last June. The controversial appointment came after the relatively young prince, a son of King Salman, forced his powerful cousin Prince Mohammad bin Nayef out of office. That was followed by rounds of purges of other royals on accusations of corruption and misuse of public funds. His trip also comes days after an overhaul of Saudi Arabia’s military leadership.

A handout picture released by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) arriving in Cairo on March 4, 2018. (AFP photo)

Bin Salman comes to Egypt against the backdrop of public discontent with a government decision to hand over sovereignty of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. The decision sparked massive protests when it was first announced in 2015. However, Egypt's top court on Saturday nullified all legal challenges to the deal and endorsed Sisi’s last year ratification of the transfer.

The Saudi prince’s visit to Cairo also comes ahead of this month's presidential election in Egypt. Sisi, a former military attaché to Saudi Arabia, led a coup as army chief against former president Mohammed Morsi in 2013 and came to power a year later relying on massive Saudi support. Experts said bin Salman’s visit to Cairo indicated that Riyadh was totally happy with Sis’s rule in Egypt.

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