'Out of the question'
Egypt is resolutely opposed to Arab military intervention in Syria, writes Doaa El-Bey
Presidential adviser Seif Abdel-Fattah, quoted this week as saying Egypt is considering military intervention in Syria, insists his words were taken out of context.
The President's Office has also been keen to make the point it opposes military intervention in Syria. On Sunday presidential spokesman Yasser Ali denied reports that Egypt had agreed to Arab military intervention in Syria, saying that such a scenario was out of the question.
The media reports were based on Abdel-Fattah telling the Turkish Anadoul news agency that Egypt was considering a Qatari proposal for Arab military intervention in Syria aimed at ending the 18-month-long conflict there.
In a phone interview Abdel-Fattah told Al-Ahram Weekly that Anadoul had asked him about the Qatari proposal and his response was that it should be thoroughly studied in light of three considerations: the shape of the intervention; the objectives of the intervention and the outcome and repercussion of the intervention.
"I underlined that this suggestion should be carefully considered as it could further complicate the problem. An Arab intervention could lead to an international intervention and we are categorically against international intervention in Syria," he said.
The news agency then asked him about possible Egyptian initiatives to Syria. He responded that the issue could be further discussed in bilateral and multilateral meeting in Turkey and other places.
Abdel-Fattah was also quoted as saying that Egyptian and Qatari officials were expected to discuss the proposal "soon", adding that non-Arab Turkey might also be involved in the initiative.
"Egypt is willing to take part provided it does not become a pretext for foreign intervention," Anadoul quoted Abdel-Fattah as saying. "Cairo might push Ankara to activate the Qatari proposal and [throw its support behind] an Arab intervention in Syria."
Ayman Al-Sayyad, editor of the cultural monthly Weghat Nazar (Points of View), also serves as a presidential adviser. He ruled out suggestions that the story had been deliberately floated as a trial balloon to test out reactions.
"I don't know the whole truth but it's unlikely to be a trial balloon. It hardly received any domestic coverage. People are too busy with domestic problems. The reaction came mostly from the Arab states."
In stressing Egypt's rejection of military involvement in Syria Ali underlined that statements made by anyone other than the president or his official spokesman do not reflect official policy. It is a line with which Al-Sayyad takes issue, pointing out the oddity of assuming the president and his official spokesman are the only parties that can reflect Egypt's official policy.
"The presidential institution as a whole should reflect official policy. That institution includes the president, vice president, spokesperson and assistants," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The issue of Arab military intervention in Syria was brought up by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani, in front of the UN General Assembly last month.
"We have used all available means to get Syria out of the cycle of killing, but that was in vain," he said in an address to the UN General Assembly. "I think it is better for the Arab countries themselves to‚ê¶ do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed in Syria."
Sheikh Hamad is a staunch supporter of the Syrian opposition.
Mohamed Mursi's preferred scenario for halting the conflict in Syria involves his proposed Quartet -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran.
Given the differences between its members -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey want to see a change of regime in Damascus while Iran thinks the regime must be part of any resolution -- the chances of any agreement among the Quartet are low. They grow even less when the Syrian regime's accusations that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are arming the opposition are taken into account.
The last Quartet meeting was held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Egypt, Iran and Turkey's foreign ministers were briefed by the Iranian minister following his meeting with Bashar Al-Assad. They also discussed ways of supporting the mission of the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
The ministers agreed to continue consultations.
In a separate development, a high-level Egyptian security delegation left for Syria on Monday according to Cairo airport officials quoted by news agencies. The delegation's mission was not immediately clear.