Egypt’s pledge to send troops was part of discussions concerning the possible forming of a United Arab Forces as part of the “Arab National Security”, Saudi general Ahmed Al-Asiri said on Tuesday to Saudi channel Al Arabiya.
Al-Asiri said that the topic came up when it was discussed in the Arab League. “This came as part of Egypt’s stance that the security of the Arab world is the same as Egypt’s,” adding that “the issue has nothing to do with participating in Yemen.”
Egypt has previously said it is only contributing naval units in the conflict and denied that there are any Egyptian troops involved on the ground. The Egyptian presidency has previously noted “the participation of the required elements of the armed forces in an abroad mission to defend the Egyptian and Arab national security in the area of the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Bab El-Mandeb Strait.”
Earlier, Al-Asiri said that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi proposed sending 40,000 Egyptian troops to Yemen as part of the fight against the Houthi rebels. He added that the offer was refused as Saudi Arabia’s goal was to build a Yemeni army and not to send foreign soldiers.
Beginning in March 2015, Saudi Arabia conducted airstrikes within Yemen, targeting areas controlled by the Houthis, including Sana’a, to re-establish the “legitimacy” of the government of president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is the Saudi-recognised ruler of Yemen.
Since the beginning of the strikes against Houthi-held positions, more than 5,700 people have been killed, many of them civilians, and Yemen is facing a humanitarian disaster due to a naval blockade and difficulties for humanitarian organisations to supply the country with food and other necessities.
Bilateral relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been strained over the past few months after Egypt’s vote in favour of the Russian draft resolution for peace in Syria at the UN Security Council.
The Saudi envoy described the voting as “painful.” Saudi Arabia criticised Egypt’s vote because of to the airstrikes Russia had carried out in the city of Aleppo. Russia supports Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad; however, Saudi Arabia and the US are backing the opposition in Syria.
Despite all this, after the Arab League Summit in Jordan last month, Al-Sisi is preparing to visit Saudi Arabia this month at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
The move comes as a sign of improving relations between Cairo and Riyadh after months of tension between the two countries.