King Salman Abdulaziz al-Sauds recent visit to Cairo further consolidated the strong commitment Riyadh has made to ensure it continues to support Egypts president Abdul Fatah al-Sisi.
The support came as no surprise with the kingdom standing out as the biggest investor and donor to Egypt since the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
Riyadhs commitment to Egypt comes at a time of low oil prices with state budgets across the GCC witnessing difficult times. Nonetheless King Salman ensured his visit did not fall short of expectations with Cairo receiving sizable investments from Saudi Arabia with a number of key political statements made during the visit.
The visit started with the announcement of $20bn worth of energy contracts expected to be signed. The financing deal, intended to service the Egyptian oil and gas sectors needs for the next five years, will also include a $1.5bn package to develop the Sinai region.
The two then signed several investment and economic infrastructure development deals, including setting up a SR60bn ($16bn) investment fund to help revive Egypts ailing economy.
The Saudi-Egyptian Investment Fund is being established between the kingdoms Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the entities belonging to it and the government of Egypt and its related entities.
The visit was then rounded off with the announcement of a causeway to connect the two countries across the red sea. Although this project has been discussed for decades, the announcement saw a different development that many were not expecting.
Part of the deal to develop the bridge, Egypt ceded two strategic red sea islands. Ownership of the uninhabited islands, which sit at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, has long been disputed, with both Cairo and Riyadh claiming them, although they were under Egyptian control.
Political analysts have told MEED it is understood that Riyadh has been forced to accept the 1979 Camp David Accord between Egypt and Israel. The treaty guarantees Israel full maritime passage rights in the Red Sea and through the Straits of Tiran, a deal enforced by the presence of a multinational force deployed in the Sinai Peninsula.
According to the Jerusalem-based newspaper Haaretz Israels premier Benjamin Netanyahu raised the issue during a security cabinet meeting two weeks ago, and briefed the ministers on the planned move. The US and the multinational peacekeeping force, whose troops are stationed on the islands in question, were also kept in the loop and did not oppose to the transfer, said the paper.
These reports suggest that there has been some sort of trilateral dialogue between Cairo, Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
MEED contacted Egypts foreign ministry but it did not respond.
While any contact between Israel and Saudi Arabia is unlikely to be revealed, the latest development highlight the changing face of the geo-political landscape of the region with Cairo and Riyadh attempting to forge a leading alliance amid Irans increased influence across the region.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia share a history of cooperation but as Riyadh continues to finance Egypts recovery, the military government of Al-Sisi could find itself increasingly involved in some of the proxy wars across the region being championed by Saudi Arabia.
Egypt now awaits the arrival French president Francois Hollande later this month with a number of military deals expected to be signed.