Cuba denies sending military help to Syria’s Assad

Cuba denies reports its troops are fighting in Syria for Assad regime

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Cuban President Raul Castro greets attendees after addressing the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015.

Cuba denied media reports on Saturday claiming the Caribbean island state had sent military assistance to Bashar al Assad’s regime forces in Syria.

Cuban foreign ministry official Gerardo Penalver said his government "categorically denies and refutes the irresponsible and unfounded information regarding the supposed presence of Cuban troops in the Syrian Arab Republic."

The refutation of reports comes after the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies claimed on Tuesday that there were unconfirmed reports provided by an unnamed source that Cuban forces were seen assisting the Assad regime against opposition fighters.

According to the report, Cuban general Leopoldo Cintra Frias was spotted in Syria meeting with Assad, whose forces renewed their offensive against opposition fighters after receiving the help of Russian air strikes this month.

The story was then circulated on social media after Fox News reported an unnamed US official confirmed the claim on Wednesday, although US White House spokesman Josh Earnest later denied the US government had seen any evidence to back this claim.

Cuba, having survived as a Communist state despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in the Cold War, still to this day remains a key ally of Russia, but has recently mended ties with the US after a 54-year break.

In the peak years of the Cold War, Cuba had sent its troops to assist fellow left-wing governments in Angola and Ethiopia in the 1970s and 1980s.

The four-and-a-half-year-old war in Syria has drawn in a number of foreign fighters on all sides of the conflict.

Assad has particularly enjoyed the support of Lebanese Hezbollah militants and Quds Force commanders from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, in addition to Russian air strikes.

An estimated 250,000 people have died in the conflict, most of them as a result of barrel bombings on civilian areas by the Assad regime.

As much as half the country’s population has also been displaced, both internally and externally, leading to the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

TRTWorld and agencies