Cairo slams reports of Egyptian military presence in Syria
Egypt has denied that it has a military presence in Syria following recent reports circulated in Arab media outlets.
In a report published last week in As-Safir, the Lebanese daily claimed that an Egyptian military unit made up of 18 pilots had travelled to a regime-controlled airbase in Hama earlier this month.
“These allegations do not exist except in the imaginations of those who promote them,” said Ahmed Abou Zeid, a spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry speaking on Sunday.
Abou Zeid added that Cairo was committed to staying out of other countries’ internal affairs, noting that any deployment of Egyptian military personnel or equipment outside Egypt’s borders would require approval from the country’s National Defence Council and House of Representatives.
Former Egyptian President and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Morsi had expressed support for the Syrian opposition battling against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before he was forced from power in July 2013 in a military coup.
However, in recent months Arab and international media and analysts have pointed to a seeming strengthening of ties between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Syrian regime in Damascus.
In October Egypt voted in favour of a Russian resolution on Syria that was firmly opposed by Saudi Arabia.
Speaking at the time, Riyadh’s UN envoy described the decision as “painful”.
Following the vote, Saudi Arabia cut crude oil supplies worth billions of dollars to Egypt, currently in the midst of an economic crisis that has lead to spikes in the prices of basic commodities and social discontent.
The visit of Syrian intelligence officials to Egypt, also in October, has further contributed to rumours of strengthening ties between Sisi and the Syrian regime.
Egypt also notably held its first ever joint military drills in Africa with Russia, which has militarily intervened in Syria in support of the Syrian regime.
In a recent interview with Portuguese TV network RTP Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed support for Bashar al-Assad, describing the Syrian President as “best positioned” to combat terrorism and restore stability in Syria, in the midst of a nearly 6 year war that has claimed the lives of over 400,000 people according to monitoring groups.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem is also reported to have said recently that a normalisation of relations between Cairo and Damascus was only a “small leap” away.