Syria political security chief visits Egypt

Pro-Assad daily Al-Akhbar reported that Cairo and Damascus would re-establish diplomatic ties.

Syrian National Security Bureau chief Ali Mamlouk (image via imlebanon.org)

BEIRUT - Syrian National Security Bureau chief Ali Mamlouk has visited Cairo to meet with top Egyptian leaders in a further sign of rapprochement between the two countries, according to a report in a leading pro-Assad Lebanese newspaper.


“In the last third of August, Mamlouk visited Cairo… and met with a number of high level officials in the army, and the intelligence and security services,” Al-Akhbar reported on Friday, weeks after the Syrian regime’s troubleshooter visited Riyadh.


“The visit was crowned by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi receiving the Syrian official,” the report added.


Al-Akhbar cited a “well-informed” source as saying that the visit was “very successful” and that both parties were “pleased with the results.”


The daily said that during the visit reactivation of bilateral diplomatic relations was agreed upon and that this would soon result in the return of ambassadors representing the two countries to Cairo and Damascus.


The source told the paper that “Cairo is preparing to name the diplomat Ahmed Helmy, who was on the staff of its embassy in Beirut, Egyptian consul general in Syria.”


Counterterror ties


Mamlouk’s visit to Egypt reportedly focused on security issues, with a source telling the Lebanese daily that the Syrian official had “discussed bilateral security cooperation to confront terrorism.”


This came “within the context of the political solution in Syria, the initiatives that have been put forward, the plan of international envoy Staffan de Mistura and efforts to convene the Moscow 3 [peace talks],” the report said.


“It was agreed that Egypt must play a bigger role in Syrian affairs in view of the strategic depth Syria constitutes for Egyptian national security.”


According to the source, “Cairo… considers the two countries to be facing a common enemy—the Muslim Brotherhood and, by implication, Turkey—that constitutes a greater threat to Egypt than Syria.”


The Egyptian officials reportedly told their Syrian guest that “Cairo believes both of the countries’ regimes are based on the strength of their armies, which form the main base of rule in them.”


Mamlouk’s hosts said they believed that “as long as the army is solid the Syrian state will continue to stand,” according to the source.


“Any collapse of the Syrian army will mean that we have entered the era partition in the region. Therefore, confrontation of partition begins from Syria.”


Egypt-Syria ties


Egypt’s government under Sisi officially opposes the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, however Cairo in recent months has moved closer to Damascus’ ally Russia on the diplomatic and military level.


During his visit to Moscow on August 26, the Egyptian leader signaled his support for an anti-ISIS alliance that would include the Syrian regime.


Reports have also emerged that Egypt has been working to repair its broken ties with Damascus, with Al-Quds al-Arabi saying that the two countries were moving toward rapprochement.


The London-based daily also cited rebel accounts that the Syrian army was shelling Zabadani with Egyptian rockets made by the state-owned Arab Organization for Industrialization.


The daily went on to claim that the supply of weapons to Damascus by Cairo is “a military translation of the recent Syrian-Egyptian political détente.”


In late August, a retired Egyptian general known for his opposition to Sisi accused Cairo of arming the Syrian regime, while rebels have accused the Syrian army of shelling Zabadani with Egyptian-made missiles. 


“On July 22, 2015, a Ukrainian merchant ship loaded with weapons and light to intermediate military equipment was sent from our country to the Syrian regime,” retired General Samy Hassan wrote on his Twitter account.


“The operation to send the ship loaded with weapons to Syria was completed with orders from [Egyptian Defense Minister] Colonel General Sedki Sobhi and in coordination with the Syrian Ministry of Defense,” the former officer further claimed.


He did not go into more detail on the purported weapons transfer, which is the latest in a series of accusations he has leveled against the Sisi government. In the fall of 2013, Hassan claimed that Egypt and the UAE were conspiring to overthrow Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Syrian National Security Bureau chief Ali Mamlouk (image via imlebanon.org)

The visit was crowned by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi receiving the Syrian official.