Egypt puts on show of support for Saudi crown prince

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In this Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, photo released by the Egyptian Presidency's office, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is received by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi in Cairo. (Egyptian Presidency via AP)

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt on Tuesday put on a show of support for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, doing its part as an ally and recipient of Riyadh's largesse to help the young royal weather the international outrage he faces over the killing and dismembering of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has made close ties with oil-rich Saudi Arabia a cornerstone of his foreign policy, a choice that has won Egypt billions of dollars in aid and investment since he took office a year after leading the military's 2013 ouster of an elected but divisive Islamist president.

Last year Egypt approved a maritime border pact that gave Saudi Arabia two strategic islands at the mouth of the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba, ignoring vociferous opposition and a court ruling that outlawed the handover.

El-Sissi made a point of welcoming and seeing off the prince at Cairo airport, and official statements spoke of Egypt as the prince's "second home."

Dozens of people waving Egyptian and Saudi flags lined a stretch of the road used by the prince on his way from his Nile-side hotel to the presidential palace in what appeared to be an organized show of affection.

Egypt did not, however, project the Saudi flag on the Giza pyramids, as shown in a doctored photograph that was widely shared on social media.

Prince Mohammed arrived in Cairo late Monday as part of his first foreign tour since a team of Saudi agents killed Khashoggi in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2. Khashoggi was a contributor to the Washington Post whose columns were critical of the prince's policies.

Prince Mohammed came to Egypt after visiting the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two of Riyadh's closest allies. He traveled on to Tunisia, where hundreds protested his visit, and is planning to attend a Group of 20 summit in Argentina later this week.

El-Sissi has said little about the Khashoggi case, aside from expressing support for the Saudi government and criticizing the "negative role" played by the media. Saudi authorities insisted for weeks that Khashoggi had safely left the consulate, and only acknowledged the killing after Turkish media revealed extensive details about the operation.

There were no protests against the crown prince's visit in Egypt, which has outlawed unauthorized demonstrations as part of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent. But some Egyptian activists criticized the Saudi royal's warm reception on social media, and dozens of journalists posted a statement decrying the visit.