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Syrian security chief makes public Cairo visit - SANA

CAIRO (Reuters) - Syria’s national security chief met a senior Egyptian intelligence official in Cairo, Syria’s state news agency said on Monday, in the latest sign of a rift between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which backs Syrian rebels.

Ali Mamlouk met the deputy chief of the national security department in Egyptian General Intelligence, Khaled Fawzi, on a one-day visit following an invitation from Cairo, SANA reported.

“The two sides agreed to coordinate politically and on fighting the terrorism both countries now face,” SANA said.

Egyptian security sources told Reuters this was Mamlouk’s third such visit this year but the first to be made public as a message to Saudi Arabia that Egypt would pursue an independent foreign policy.

Egypt this month voted in favour of a Russian-backed U.N. resolution on Syria that excluded calls to stop bombing Aleppo, which Saudi Arabia strongly opposed.

The move was the latest indication of a rift between the two allies and came a week after a halt to shipments of Saudi fuel to Egypt under a $23 billion aid deal.

Russian aircraft and Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been bombarding rebel-controlled districts of Aleppo since the collapse of an internationally-brokered ceasefire last month.

The United States and some European states have accused Moscow and Syria of committing atrocities, but Russian officials deny that and accuse the West of abetting terrorists.

Egypt has been courting warmer ties with Russia, Saudi Arabia’s foe in the Syrian conflict, and supports Moscow’s decision to bomb the country in support of Assad.

Saudi Arabia, which has showered Egypt with billions of dollars of aid since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in mid-2013, is a leading backer of rebels fighting against Assad.

Security sources said Mamlouk’s visit was made public to show Egypt would not bow to outside pressures.

Egypt also asked Mamlouk for Syrian intelligence on fighters coming to Egypt from Syria, the sources said, and for an update on behind the scenes talks between Russian and Syrian officials.

Syria talks convened by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the Swiss city of Lausanne on Saturday evening failed to agree on a common strategy with Russia to end the conflict, now in its sixth year.

Kerry hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and seven foreign ministers from the region - from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt - weeks after the collapse of a painstakingly crafted U.S.-Russian ceasefire plan that many saw as the last hope for peace this year.

Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Tom Heneghan