In a first, Egypt’s Sisi calls Syria’s Assad after devastating earthquake

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called Syria’s Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday to offer support after a devastating earthquake, their offices announced, in the first official exchange between the two leaders.

Ahmed Fahmy, spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, said Sisi “expressed his sincere condolences” in the wake of the 7.8-magnitude quake that hit Syria and neighboring Turkey early Monday, killing more than 5,000 people.

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In Syria, state media and rescuers said more than 1,600 have died and over 3,600 injured across the country.

“President Sisi reiterated Egypt’s solidarity with Syria and its brotherly people in this calamity. He also directed that all possible aid be provided to Syria,” Fahmy said.

Syrian state news agency SANA said “President Assad thanked Egypt for this position, which reflects the fraternal relations that bind the two brotherly countries.”

Condolences have poured in and dozens of nations have offered aid since the pre-dawn earthquake that wiped out entire sections of cities in both Turkey and Syria.

The Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers spoke on the phone on Monday, with Cairo promising “emergency humanitarian aid,” according to an Egyptian statement.

While Egyptian state media noted the presidents’ call was their first since Sisi assumed office in 2014, the two countries have maintained relations during Syria’s 12-year war, unlike some other Arab countries who severed ties with Damascus.

The conflict in Syria was triggered by demonstrations in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts across the region, which in Egypt toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

That same year, Syria was suspended from the Arab League.

Egypt’s official position on Syria has called for “a political solution,” steering clear of discussing the fate of Assad himself.

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