A Saudi general has revealed that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had proposed sending up to 40 thousand Egyptian ground forces to Yemen to fight with the Saudi-led Arab coalition against the Houthi rebels.
Ahmed Asiri said on Sunday that Riyadh had rejected the offer because Saudi Arabia’s goal has been to build a strong Yemeni army that will be able to protect Yemen in the future.
Riyadh had been reportedly frustrated by Cairo’s unwillingness to send ground troops to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.
“His excellency Sisi offered Saudi Arabia and the coalition to send ground troops,” Asiri toldAl Arabiya.
“The methodology in Yemen has been to not deploy non-Yemeni troops on Yemeni land,” he added.
“The Egyptian military is currently taking part with naval and aerial forces but at that time we were talking about around 30 to 40 thousand ground troops,” the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition went on to say.
An unnamed Egyptian official told local media on Monday that Egypt has never offered to send ground forces to Yemen.
“Saudi Arabia had asked Egypt to send ground troops but we said a definite no to this matter. This is one of the main reasons for the recent dispute between the two countries,” the official said.
Sisi met Saudi King Salman last month on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in Jordan, breaking the ice after months of tensions between the longtime allies.
Political analyst Mohammad Ezz told The New Arab that Egyptian authorities have yet to make an official statement because they do not want to re-strain the relationship with Riyadh.
“Egypt has remained silent on a number of contentious issues regarding Saudi Arabia as it wants to ‘sit on the fence’,” Ezz said.
“If Sisi comes out and denies the claims it would cause a commotion in the kingdom ahead his upcoming meeting with the King and if he confirms it then it would anger the Egyptian public who are opposed to sending troops abroad,” he added.
The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015.
The conflict in Yemen pits an internationally-recognised government backed by the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels, who captured the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014.
The coalition comprises the Gulf monarchies Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates along with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.
In 1962, Egypt intervened militarily in Yemen in support of a coup seeking to oust the country’s monarchy.
The long and costly quagmire became known as “Egypt’s Vietnam” with up to 20,000 Egyptian troops being killed.
The Sudanese army said on Tuesday that five of its troops have been killed while fighting for the Saudi-led coalition.
The army did not specify when the troops were killed, but Sudan has deployed hundreds of soldiers as part of the coalition that is fighting the rebels backed by Iran in a war which the United Nations says has already left around 7,700 people dead and 42,500 wounded.