Egypt's president supports Syrian army

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says he supports the Syrian military, putting him at odds with Saudi Arabia.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said he supports the Syrian military, a position at odds with his country's Gulf benefactors like Saudi Arabia, AFP reports.

The former army chief, who has overseen a warming of ties with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's main backer Russia, made the comments during an interview aired Tuesday with Portuguese broadcaster RTP.

"Our priority is to support national armies, for example in Libya to assert control over Libyan territories and deal with extremist elements. The same with Syria and Iraq," he said, responding to a question on whether Egypt would contemplate a UN peacekeeping role in Syria.

Asked by the interviewer whether he meant the Syrian military, he responded, "Yes."

Sisi, who was elected in 2014 almost a year after overthrowing his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi, has cracked down on Islamists and is battling a deadly jihadist insurgency.

His government had been supported by billions of dollars in aid from Saudi Arabia, but ties appear to have cooled between the two countries amid disagreements over Syria.

Saudi Arabia backs rebels trying to oust Assad, while Russia and Iran are supporting him militarily.

Saudi Arabia suspended oil shipments to Egypt in October, a move announced after Cairo backed a Russian-drafted resolution on Syria in the UN Security Council, angering Riyadh.

Before that, Cairo's cash-strapped government and Riyadh reached a deal according to which the two strategic Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran would be transferred to Saudi control.

The deal provoked angry protests by Egyptians, who saw the agreement as a blow to national sovereignty, and was later struck down by an Egyptian court.

In his interview, Sisi maintained Egypt's broad position on resolving the Syrian conflict, saying the solution must be "political."

"Our stance in Egypt is to respect the will of the Syrian people, and that a political solution to the Syrian crisis is the most suitable way, and to seriously deal with terrorist groups and disarm them," he said, according to AFP.

Sisi, who has praised Donald Trump, also said a plan floated by the U.S. president-elect to have a database for Muslims was understandable.

"Yes," he said when asked whether he felt concerned by such rhetoric.

"But every country tries to provide security and stability for its citizens, and we understand that."

AFP contributed to this report.