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Opinion: The King Who Shook the Hands of All Egyptians | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s visit to Egypt resulted in 17 economic agreements being signed. These included agreements on the demarcation of borders and building a historical bridge linking Egypt and Saudi Arabia. However, the most important thing to come out of King Salman’s visit is that he is the first Saudi king to shake hands with all Egyptians.

King Salman’s visit to Egypt did not intend to satisfy a specific institution, party or ideology, it was a historic handshake with all of Egypt. In this historic visit, the Saudi monarch became the first king to visit Al-Azhar mosque according to a statement from Al-Azhar itself. It declared that the foundation for a Saudi-financed city for students coming from foreign countries to study at Al Azhar University had been laid.

It does not stop here. King Salman also met the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria Tawadros II for the first time and is the first Saudi king to have done so according to a statement issued by the spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church. That tells us that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ visit to Egypt was not related to the economy or an alliance but is rather a complete state visit that will enhance strategic cooperation, mutual backing and support between Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The visit does not intend to simply demarcate borders and was not made out of regard for institutions and figures. Nor did it intend to take advantage of timely opportunities. Rather it is the product of a deep political vision initiated by the Saudi king, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to shake hands with every Egyptian in order to strengthen the Saudi relationship with all Egyptians – Muslim and Copts alike. This is because Egypt is a symbol of Arabism and is not a symbol of a party or ideology. It does not derive its value from a specific institution, but from Egyptian backing and support. This negates the conspiracy theories directed at the two countries that accused Saudi Arabia of being inclined to Hosni Mubarak or supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.

The purpose of King Salman’s visit to Egypt is to shake hands with every Egyptian and he officially announced that Egypt is a strong ally and backer of Saudi Arabia just as his country strongly backs and supports Egypt. King Salman sent a message to all, regionally and internationally, that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is strategic and aims to encourage real Arabism. He also sent the message that Saudi Arabia and Egypt have previously worked to consolidate this mutual support, maintain it and protect it.

The Saudi government and people have considered Egypt to be an ally and strong backer since the reign of King Abdulaziz and in turn, we are an ally to and a strong backer of Egypt. This notion has not changed and it is for this reason that we can say that King Salman shook hands with all Egyptians regardless of their religion, inclinations or ideas. This is the most effective and efficient step to maintain the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to protect the region and Arabism and most importantly defend the reputation of our religion Islam that calls for tolerance.