Saudis furious after Egypt backs 'Aleppo aerial slaughter'

Saudis furious after Egypt backs 'Aleppo aerial slaughter'
Egypt's decision to back Russia's UN draft resolution on Syria which would not end devastating air raids on Aleppo has drawn condemnation from Egypt's close ally Saudi Arabia.
3 min read
10 October, 2016
Egypt is a close ally of both Russia and Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Egypt's decision to back a Russian UN draft resolution that does not end devastating air raids on rebel areas in Syria has drawn condemnation from Cairo's close ally Saudi Arabia.

Egypt voted in favour of two competing resolutions on Syria on Saturday, one drawn up by pro-Syrian opposition France and the other by Russia, which is supporting Bashar al-Assad's regime with air raids on rebels.

A Russian veto meant that France's ceasefire proposal was thrown out while Moscow's plan was also rejected.

Saudi Arabia's envoy to the UN, Abdallah al-Muallami, said that Egypt was grovelling to Russian influence and as a backer of the opposition the decision by Cairo was "painful".

"It is a dark day for the Syrian people. But Syrians do not know darkness. They will win," said Muallami, according to Riyadh-owned al-Arabiya.

Russian proposal

Moscow's ceasefire plan made no mention of stopping the aerial bombardment of opposition areas in Aleppo, which have left hundreds of civilians dead. Meanwhile, France's resolution demanded a halt to air raids of rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 275,000 people are living under siege.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is one of the principle regional backers of Sisi, a former army chief who has overseen a crackdown on the opposition since ousting his Islamist predecessor Mohammad Morsi in 2013.

Egypt, however, has failed to back Saudi Arabia's support of Syrian rebels, shrugging off the latest criticism.

      Egypt voted in favour of two competing resolutions [Getty]

"Egypt backs all efforts aimed at stopping the Syrian tragedy. It voted for both resolutions based on their content, not political bidding that has become a hindrance to the Security Council's work," Egyptian Ambassador to the UN Amr Abul Atta said.

Despite recent disputes over fungus in Russian wheat imports and the suspension of Russian flights to Egypt following the bombing of a plane carrying Russia holidaymakers in October 2015, Sisi has remained a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In February 2015, Putin visited Egypt, where he was received with a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute, while posters of the Russian leader were plastered on Cairo's main roads greeting him in Russian, Arabic and English.

Saudi Arabia is also a close ally of Egypt, with Riyadh being one of the chief financial backers of Cairo as its economy teeters on bankruptcy.

Russia and Saudi Arabia stand on opposite sides of the conflict in Syria. Russia's intense air campaign against rebels has turned the tide in the Syria war in favour of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The New Arab political pundit Wael Kandil said that Egypt's disloyalty should be no surprise to Saudi Arabia, which has long backed the Syrian opposition to Assad.

"The Saudi government and people seem shocked, or at least hurt, by this betrayal and public backstab that Sisi has surprised them with," Kandil wrote.

"This regime knows nothing about the principles of foreign relations, and Saudi Arabia has been the first to know that since the Sisi phone calls were leaked, in which he says 'they have money like rice'."

The vote led to the Arabic-language hashtag #EgyptVotesForRussia gaining traction on Twitter among Saudi users.

Veteran Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi wrote: "Egypt needs to be reminded that it represents the Arabs at the Security Council."

Last year, Kashoggi hinted that Egypt would possibly soon end its support for Russian military intervention in Syria and fall in line with Riyadh's support for the Syrian opposition.

Translation: "Since Akhenaten and Tutankhamun till Mubarak, Morsi and Adly Mansour. No one as stupid as this man has ruled Egypt."