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Saudi King called for a joint fight against terrorism

11 April, 2016

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CAIRO - Saudi King Salman called Sunday for a joint fight against "terrorism" in the Middle East at a time when Riyadh is engaged in several conflicts in the region.

The 80-year-old monarch is on a rare five-day visit to Egypt, a trip seen as a clear show of support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former military chief who toppled his predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The two leaders have already signed a slew of multi-billion-dollar investment deals, and on Saturday Egypt agreed to demarcate its maritime borders with Saudi Arabia by officially placing two islands in the Straits of Tiran in Saudi territory.

"The other mission that we should work on together is the fight against extremism and the fight against terrorism," King Salman said in an address to the Egyptian parliament broadcast live on state television.

In December, Saudi Arabia announced the creation of an "anti-terrorism" coalition whose members it said would share intelligence, counter violent ideology and deploy troops if necessary to combat extremists.

The kingdom is part of the US-led coalition bombing the jihadist Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Riyadh is also leading an Arab coalition, of which Egypt is a member, that has been bombing Iran-backed Huthi Shiite rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has been a key backer of Sisi since the overthrow of Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood movement was viewed by Riyadh with suspicion.

It has since pumped billions of dollars in aid and investment into Egypt. On Saturday, King Salman and Sisi agreed to set up a $16 billion investment fund, and also settled the long-standing maritime dispute.

Salman announced on Friday a plan to build a bridge over the Red Sea to Egypt, and inked several other agreements Egypt hopes will boost its battered economy.

His visit follows months of reports in Saudi and Egyptian newspapers of strained ties over Cairo's unwillingness to participate fully in operations against Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Egypt had announced it would back Saudi Arabia with ground troops if needed, but appears to have balked at the prospect of becoming mired in the conflict. For Saudi Arabia, which is in competition with regional rival Iran, keeping Egypt under its aegis is crucial, and it has played a key role in propping up Egypt's economy.

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