Saudi Arabia’s crown prince arrives in Algeria as part of Arab tour

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia walk through the red carpet during a welcoming ceremony at the Algerian International Airport in Algiers on Sunday night. (SPA)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia walk through the red carpet during a welcoming ceremony at the Algerian International Airport in Algiers on Sunday night. (SPA)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arriving at the Algerian International Airport in Algiers on Sunday night. (SPA)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 1st left, walks down the plane steps upon his arrival at Algiers international airport, Algeria, on Dec. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) and Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia (R) inspect an honor guard upon the former's arrival at Algiers International Airport, southeast of the capital Algiers on December 2, 2018. (AFP / RYAD KRAMDI)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) is received by Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia (R) upon the former's arrival at Algiers International Airport on December 2, 2018. (AFP / RYAD KRAMDI)
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Top Algerian officials welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Algerian International Airport in Algiers on Sunday night. (SPA)
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Top Algerian officials welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Algerian International Airport in Algiers on Sunday night. (SPA)
Updated 03 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince arrives in Algeria as part of Arab tour

  • Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia received the prince in the capital Algiers
  • Algerian-Saudi investments and trade relations, especially in the oil and petrochemical sectors, will be discussed during the two-day visit

ALGIERS: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Algiers on Sunday for a two-day official visit to Algeria, heading a high-ranking delegation.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia received the prince at the airport, where an official reception ceremony was held. After that the prime minister accompanied him to his residence, Saudi Press Agency said 

Algerian-Saudi investments and trade relations, especially in the oil and petrochemical sectors, will be discussed during the two-day visit, the Algeria Press Agency earlier announced.

The crown prince arrived in Algeria from Mauritania, where he resumed a tour of Arab countries after attending the G20 summit in Argentina.

In the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott early Sunday, he was welcomed by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The crown prince conveyed King Salman’s greetings to the Mauritanian leader, SPA said.

In an extended meeting, they discussed bilateral relations and ways to further development opportunities in the region.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seen behind a military band upon his arrival at Algiers International Airport on Dec. 2, 2018. (AFP / RYAD KRAMDI)

Saudi Arabia and Mauritania signed three agreements, and the crown prince announced a directive by the monarch to establish the King Salman Hospital in Nouakchott with a capacity of 300 beds. Dr. Hazza Al-Mutairi, Saudi ambassador to Mauritania, said the crown prince’s visit came as a result of the distinguished and strengthening relations between the two countries, which have many areas of mutual interest.

“The Saudi-Mauritanian relations have witnessed a steady growth, encompassing all political, economic, cultural and other fields of bilateral cooperation,” he said in a statement to SPA. 

Saudi Arabia has been a major provider of economic assistance to Mauritania since the days of King Faisal, who visited the North African country in 1972, 12 years after it gained independence from France.

At last week’s G20 Summit in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires, the crown prince, who headed the Saudi delegation, was greeted by world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

On the way to Argentina, the crown prince stopped in Tunis after visiting Cairo, which was his sixth trip to Egypt and his second as crown prince.  He and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi held talks on strengthening bilateral relations and cooperation.

Algerian and Saudi flags are pictured in Algiers ahead of the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Algeria on Dec. 2, 2018. (REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina)

Before that, the crown prince visited Bahrain, where he was received by King Hamad and held talks with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad.   

As part of efforts to expand Saudi-Bahraini cooperation, he inaugurated a pipeline through which 220,000 barrels of oil are expected to flow daily.  

The UAE was the crown prince’s first stop. In Abu Dhabi, he held talks with UAE leaders on a number of issues, including Middle East security threats and their impact on regional stability.  

Saudi Arabia “is assuming a pivotal role in efficiently confronting the challenges besetting the region, and is spearheading efforts aimed at ensuring security, stability and development for the region’s peoples, not to mention its good offices to achieve peace and safety across different parts of the world,” said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.


Egypt begins vote on extending El-Sisi’s rule

Updated 20 April 2019
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Egypt begins vote on extending El-Sisi’s rule

  • El-Sisi cast his ballot at a polling station in the eastern suburb of Heliopolis in the Egyptian capital
  • Supporters argue that El-Sisi has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to complete crucial economic reforms.

CAIRO: Voting began on Saturday in Egypt in a referendum on proposed constitutional amendments that would extend President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's rule.
El-Sisi cast his ballot at a polling station in the eastern suburb of Heliopolis in the Egyptian capital, state television showed.  

Supporters argue that El-Sisi has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to complete crucial economic reforms. Critics say they fear that the changes will further limit the space for dissent. 

An amendment to Article 140 of the constitution extends the presidential term to six years from four. An outright bar on any president serving more than two terms will change to a bar on serving more than two consecutive terms. An additional clause extends El-Sisi’s current term to six years from four currently since his election victory in 2018, and allows him to run for a third term in 2024. 

The amendments provide for the creation of a second parliamentary chamber known as the Council of Senators. It would have 180 members, two-thirds elected by the public and the rest appointed by the president. 

Article 200 of the constitution on the role of the military is expanded, giving the military a duty to protect “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental makeup of the country and its civil nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedoms of individuals.” 

The amendments also create the post of vice president, allowing the president to appoint one or more deputies. 

They task the president with choosing head judges and the public prosecutor from a pool of senior candidates pre-selected by the judiciary. They further create a quota setting women’s representation in Parliament at a minimum of 25 percent. 

Who is behind the amendments? 

The amendments were initiated by the pro-government parliamentary bloc known as Support Egypt, and according to the Parliament’s legislative committee report, 155 members submitted the initial proposal. On Tuesday, 531 out of 596 members of Egypt’s overwhelmingly pro-El-Sisi Parliament voted in favor of the changes. Parliament speaker Ali Abdelaal has said that the amendments were a parliamentary initiative and that El-Sisi may not even choose to run again. 

“This suggestion came from the representatives of the people in gratitude for the historic role played by the president,” the legislative committee report said. 

Proponents of the changes have argued that El-Sisi, a former army chief, came to power with a huge mandate after mass protests in 2013 against President Mohamed Mursi’s one year in office. With macro economic indicators improving, they say El-Sisi deserves more time to build on reforms. The legislative committee report said religious, academic, political and civil society representatives expressed strong overall support for the changes during a consultation period ahead of the Parliament’s final vote. 

What do opponents say? 

The legislative committee acknowledged some opposition to the amendments from members of the judiciary and two non-governmental organizations. Just 22 members of Parliament voted against the amendments. They and other opposition figures say a central promise of the 2011 uprising that toppled then-President Hosni Mubarak is at risk: The principle of the peaceful transfer of power. They say the amendments were driven by El-Sisi and his close entourage, and by the powerful security and intelligence agencies. They also fear the changes thrust the armed forces into political life by formally assigning them a role in protecting democracy. 

“If you want your children and grandchildren to live in a modern democratic country with peaceful transition of power, I do not think this is the amendment we would want,” one of the opposition MPs, Haitham El-Hariri, told Parliament this week. 

While Abdelaal said a wide range of views were given a hearing during the consultation period, opposition figures and activists say genuine debate on the amendments was impossible due to a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent. 

Egyptian officials deny silencing dissent and say that Egyptians from all walks of life were given a chance to debate the amendments, adding that all views were factored into the final proposals. Abdelaal also denied that the amendments prescribe a new role for the military. 

He told Parliament that the armed forces are the backbone of the country and Egypt is “neither a military or a religious state,” state-run Al Ahram newspaper said. “This is part of (El-Sisi’s) consolidation of power,” said Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent US-based think-tank. “From an institutional perspective, Egypt’s counter-revolution is largely complete.” 

What happens next?

Egyptians abroad start voting on Friday, while the vote inside Egypt begins on Saturday, meaning Egyptians have less than four days to read and discuss the changes following their approval by Parliament. Election commissioner Lasheen Ibrahim, who announced the dates of the referendum on Wednesday, did not say when the votes will be counted or the results announced. More than a week before Parliament’s final vote, posters and banners sprung up across the capital Cairo urging people to “do the right thing” and participate, some calling directly for a “yes” vote.