Egypt's Morsi makes a stand over Syria
Egypt's president gave his first major foreign policy speech yesterday, telling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to step down before it is too late.
He also warned Iran against interfering in Arab affairs and voiced support for Palestinian efforts to gain full membership status at the UN.
Addressing an Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo, Mohammed Morsi outlined the foreign policy objectives of his administration, more than two months after he took office as the nation’s first freely-elected and civilian president.
His comments appeared to signal his bid to assert Egypt as a leading power in the Middle East. Many Egyptians believe his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, allowed non-Arab powers, like Turkey and Iran, to wield too much influence over the region.
Mubarak was overthrown in early 2011 in a popular uprising. After 17 months of military rule, Morsi defeated Mubarak’s former prime minister in a presidential election to take office in June.
Morsi, an Islamist who hails from the country’s largest political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has chosen foreign policy as the forum to make his mark as the new leader of the most populous Arab nation. He started off in Iran last month with a surprisingly hard-hitting speech in which he voiced his support for Syrian rebels against the “oppressive” regime.
His comments took on added significance because Iran is Al Assad’s closest ally and his regime’s main foreign backer.
Morsi continued to make his stance clear yesterday. “I tell the Syrian regime that there is still a chance to halt the bloodshed,” he said. “Don’t listen to the voices that tempt you to stay because you will not be there for much longer.
“It’s too late to talk about reform, this is the time for change. The Syrian regime must learn from recent history.”
He was alluding to the recent fate of authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen that have been overthrown in uprisings.
Without mentioning Iran by name, Morsi said there can never be any cooperation between the Arab world and neighbouring nations except on the basis of “a clear and candid declaration of respect for the sovereignty of Arab nations and non-interference in their affairs”.