UAE, Saudi pledge billions to shore up development in Egypt as unrest grows

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has pledged $4bn for Egypt, of which $2bn will be allocated for investment in development, with the other $2bn supporting Egypt’s cash reserves.

The pledge follows an even bigger loan agreement by Saudi Arabia, and comes as popular unrest spreads in Egypt.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan promised the cash at the conclusion of his visit to Egypt last week, Emirati state news agency WAM reported.

It was not clear whether the $4bn is new or instead is the $4bn promised by the UAE at a major conference in March 2015, at which Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also pledged $4bn each to assist Egypt’s development.

Support from the Gulf states for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has intensified in recent weeks amid growing unrest.

Earlier this month Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman revived a controversial idea by announcing that a $4bn bridge over the Red Sea would be built to increase trade and traffic between the two countries.

But the announcement, made during a visit by King Salman to Cairo, was eclipsed by an unexpected surge of protest in Egypt at Sisi’s decision to cede two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia.

Sisi used a televised speech today to warn against planned demonstrations, saying "evil" forces were conspiring against the country.

King Salman’s visit, which concluded on 8 April, also resulted in loan agreements from Saudi Arabia worth over $24bn, with the bulk of that, $22bn, covering Egypt’s petroleum needs for five years. But a reported $1.7bn will help upgrade Egypt’s Sinai infrastructure and to finance transportation, housing and agricultural projects.

Gulf monarchies UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are keen to support Sisi as a bulwark against Islamist militancy in the region. According to WAM, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who accompanied UAE President Al Nahyan on the Cairo visit, called Egypt "a pillar of stability and a safety valve for the region".

During last week’s visit Sheikh Mohamed and President Sisi toured the site of a major new residential complex near Cairo, called the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Residential Complex, Gulf Today reported.

Covering an area of about 20,000 acres, the complex connects Cairo city with the new administrative capital project. The foundation stone will be laid at the end of May and construction of roads and utilities will be completed within two years, Gulf Today reported, adding that approximately 50 Egyptian construction companies will be involved in the mega project.

Photograph: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo on 20 April 2016 (US State Department)

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