Egypt supports the Syrian people and has been consulting with the Syrian national opposition, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry on Tuesday. He added that Egypt is in close cooperation with the Syrian rebels.
In an interview with CNN, Shoukry said the Syrian regime led by President Bashar Al-Assad may potentially seize Aleppo; he added, however: “The Syrian opposition and the Syrian people deserve the opportunity to take matters into their own hands in a peaceful political process.”
Shoukry said Egypt is maintaining a close relationship with the UN envoy to Syria and filed a draft resolution with Spain and New Zealand to the United Nations security council, but was vetoed by Russia and China. This motion primarily aimed to put an end to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and help humanitarian aid access the entire country.
In another interview with PBS, the foreign minister said President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi did not specify whether Egypt supports a particular political faction, nor had he referred to the Syrian regime when he spoke of Egypt’s stance on Syria. Al-Sisi said the national armies would be better off adhering to the responsibility of fighting terrorism in their countries, instead of relying on foreign intervention.
Shoukry’s statements on Egypt’s footing in the Syrian crisis contradict Al-Sisi’s, as the latter said in an interview with a Portuguese TV channel that Egypt supports the Syrian national army—affiliated to Al-Assad’s regime. This marks the first explicit support from Egypt to a specific political faction in Syria.
Al-Sisi’s support for the Syrian army came after tensions erupted with Saudi Arabia following Egypt’s vote in the UN security council in favour of the Russian draft resolution regarding peace in Syria. The vote sparked tension between Egypt and Saudi Arabia as the latter supports the rebels in Syria, while Russia is backing Al-Assad.
Mohammed Bassam Al-Malek, a member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, told Daily News Egypt that the Egyptian stance on the Syrian crisis is the most balanced of other countries—including Russia and Iran, which support Al-Assad and his regime, leaving the opposition to be persecuted and killed by the Islamic State (IS).
Al-Malek added that Egypt’s draft resolution that was filed in the UN security council and vetoed by Russia and China was good and included key points that would help deliver necessary commodities to the Syrian people. He hopes that Egypt adheres to its stance regarding its support for the Syrian people and the opposition, further supporting the release of Syrian detainees, ending the siege, and calling for access of humanitarian aid.
Concerning the claims of the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which reported that Egypt’s military is intervening in Syria to help Al-Assad, Al-Malek refuted the possibility of this being accurate.
In Shoukry’s interview with CNN, host Wolf Blitzer described the 30 June uprising as a “military coup” due to the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi by the armed forces. Shoukry corrected Blitzer and told him that although the mass protests were protected by the armed forces, they were not organised by the military institution.
On president-elect Donald Trump’s statements regarding banning Muslims from entering the United States, Shoukry said “no discussion of that specific nature” took place in his meeting with vice president-elect Mike Pence. The minister said that any kind of racial profiling will not comply with the international community’s understanding of human rights; nonetheless, Shoukry said these matters are debated within societies and Egypt’s does not intervene in other countries’ domestic affairs.
Shoukry concluded his visit to Washington DC on Tuesday following a number of meetings on his last day with several members of congress and senators. According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during these meetings Shoukry discussed the economic reform programme as well as Egypt’s desire to communicate with Trump’s new administration.
The foreign minister also discussed US aid to Egypt, saying that its continuation is paramount and should be increased due to the challenges Egypt is facing in combating terrorism. The US cut its military aid to Egypt following the mass protests in 2013 when the armed forces ousted Morsi; however, president Barack Obama restored it as the threat of IS grew in Sinai and other parts of the country.
In New York, Shoukry is scheduled to meet new UN secretary general António Guterres, and discuss Egypt’s stance on different regional and international issues in light of its current membership in the UN security council.
Shoukry’s visit to the US began last week; he met with several officials, including Pence and US secretary of state John Kerry. It was the first visit of an Egyptian official to the US since Trump won the presidential elections in November. Shoukry relayed a message from Al-Sisi to Pence and Trump, in which Al-Sisi emphasised the depth of bilateral relations between Egypt and the US and Egypt’s aspiration to enhance cooperation between the two countries.
Several analysts expect bilateral relations under Trump’s administration to improve, particularly as there is a similarity in vision regarding the current turmoil in the Middle East.