Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Egypt on Monday, the third leg of his first trip abroad since the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey last month.
Despite the global condemnation of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greeted the heir to the Saudi throne at the airport in Cairo when he arrived from Bahrain after a visit to the United Arab Emirates.
The killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince, at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul six weeks ago has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with the West and battered Prince Mohammed’s image abroad.
The prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, and Sisi are expected to discuss bilateral relations and enhancing them in various fields “in addition to discussing political issues of mutual interest,” Egypt’s state news agency MENA said.
Several high-ranking Saudi officials, including the foreign, trade and interior ministers and the head of general intelligence, the official Saudi Press Agency said, accompanied the crown prince.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have bolstered ties since Sisi took power in 2013 after ousting President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected President.
The Saudi kingdom has poured billions of dollars to back al-Sisi military regime.
Nearly 100 Egyptian journalists have announced their rejection of the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Cairo.
The Egyptian journalists said in a statement that they refuse to receive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Egypt for humanitarian, professional, union, and national reasons.
“The Saudi regime is violating human values, especially the right to live, both for its citizens and for Egyptians and non-Egyptians working in the Kingdom”” the journalists added.
They stressed that: “Saudi Arabia is a country that is not governed by the law and does not have a credible and independent judicial system in its principles of justice. It uses Islam and Sharia to curb the freedoms and rights and to justify committing atrocities against fundamental human rights. It also encourages the violation of these values by supporting corrupt, despotic regimes inside and outside the region”
Regarding the professional reasons for their rejection of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit, the journalists explained that: “The horrifying assassination of their colleague journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 represents a clear and complete crime that the Saudi regime is fully responsible for committing it from beginning to end.”
The journalists pointed out that: “The attempts of Bin Salman and the royal family to evade responsibility requires journalists in Egypt and around the world to condemn this regime, on top of which the king and his crown prince, and putting them on top of the list of the enemies of freedom of expression and journalism in the world.”
The signatory journalists to the statement continued: “If the media and newspapers in Egypt are subject to unfair restrictions and the abhorrent control of an authority that in its turn does not respect freedoms, the rights of readers and viewers, and journalism ethics, there are many Egyptian journalists who will raise their voices against all these violations, and even crimes, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other countries.”
The journalists also criticized in their statement the “silence of the Egyptian Syndicate of Journalists about the visit of the first accused person in the horrendous assassination of a colleague journalist and attempts to cover it with a visit to Egypt.”
After an overnight stay in Cairo, the crown prince next trip is to Tunisia amid protests against the visit.
Tunisian journalists and 12 civil society organizations held a press conference at the headquarters of the syndicate, condemning their government for hosting bin Salman, who they held responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
“The consulate should have been a safe refuge for any journalist, irrespective of their affiliation,” Sakina Abdel Samad, secretary-general of the syndicate, said at a news conference.
Saudi Arabia has said the crown prince had no prior knowledge of Khashoggi’s murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said last month that Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the killing was ordered by the highest level of Saudi leadership but probably not by King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on the 33-year-old crown prince.
US media have reported that the CIA has concluded bin Salman was directly responsible for Khashoggi’s death. He rejects the allegations.