Egypt rejects reports on military presence in Syria

Egypt has denied Arab media reports claiming that Cairo has military presence in Syria.

“These claims only exist in the imagination of those who promote them,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued on Sunday.

On November 24, Lebanese As-Safir newspaper quoted “well-informed Arab sources” as saying that Egypt had dispatched pilots to an airbase in Syria’s western city of Hama on November 12, adding that the contingent was joined by four senior Egyptian military figures upon arrival.

The paper added that two Egyptian major generals had also been operating at the Armed Forces Staff Headquarters in the Syrian capital, Damascus, since last month. They have been touring frontlines, including the so-called southern front in the city of Quneitra, the report said.

The daily also quoted one source “close to the Syria file” as saying that a large deployment of Egyptian troops will arrive in Syria in late January 2017 to take part in military operations “not limited to air support at Hama airbase.”

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi recently expressed support for the Syrian military, saying it was capable of restoring stability to Syria.

Sisi’s remarks reportedly irked Saudi Arabia and some Persian Gulf Arab monarchies that back Takfiri terrorist groups, including Daesh, operating to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Major General Ali Mamlouk, the head of Syria’s National Security Bureau, visited the Egyptian capital, Cairo, in October and held talks with senior Egyptian intelligence officials. The two sides reached an agreement on “coordinating political standpoints” and improving bilateral “cooperation in the combat against terrorism” during the talks, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported at the time.

A month earlier, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry had announced that Cairo and Riyadh did not share common attitudes vis-à-vis the ongoing crisis in Syria.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been at odds over regional politics including the warming of ties between Moscow and Cairo and Egypt’s refusal to send troops to Yemen and Syria.

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