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Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Egypt commits 1,000 sq km of land in Sinai for NEOM

NEOM is getting 1,000 sq km in Sinai: Egypt has committed more than 1,000 sq km of land in South Sinai to developing its side of the transnational robot utopia better known as NEOM, for USD 10 bn, a Saudi official told Reuters yesterday. “Saudi Arabia plans to build seven cities and tourism projects, while Egypt will focus on developing the existing resort cities of Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada,” according to the Saudi official. “The kingdom will also work with Egypt and Jordan to attract European cruise companies to operate in the Red Sea during the winter season. Riyadh is negotiating with seven cruise companies and aims to build yacht marinas.”

Egypt’s stretch of NEOM will be financed through the USD 16 bn (SAR 60 bn) joint investment fund that Cairo and Riyadh agreed to establish on Sunday, the newswire says. The fund — which is originally part of a 2016 agreement — will also finance other projects in Egypt that will be picked from the Investment Ministry’s investment map, particularly tourism-related projects in Alamein and South Sinai, the ministry said in a statement (pdf). A board of directors comprised of officials from both countries will manage the fund, set its strategy, and follow up on ongoing ventures. The agreement will still have to pass a vote in Egypt’s House of Representatives.

Cairo and Riyadh had signed two other MoUs on Sunday: One on cooperation between the General Authority for Freezones and Investment and its Saudi counterpart, and another on the preservation of the Red Sea’s coral reefs and prevention of ‘visual pollution.’ (Does that apply to tourists of various forms?)

The agreements come as “Egypt seeks investment from oil-rich Saudi Arabia” as part of “a growing strategic partnership,” Brian Rohan writes for The Associated Press. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi gave Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a “warm welcome” upon his arrival in Cairo, where the Saudi royal also met with Coptic Pope Tawadros II and Al Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb. El Sisi also accompanied MbS to Ismailia, where they toured sites of several ongoing projects, Ittihadiya said yesterday.

The story is still getting a lot of ink in the foreign press, particularly from the GCC, with coverage from ANSAMed, Financial Times, The National, Saudi Gazette, Khaleej Times, Al Arabiya, and Arab News.

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