Egyptian President Morsi backs Syrian rebels in speech

Correction — October 1, 2015
Bashar al-Assad is Syria's President, rather than Prime Minister as stated by this article.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mohamed Morsi (left) pictured in June.
Image: Jonathan Rashad.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi strongly backed the Syrian rebels Thursday in a speech at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Iran. Morsi, a Sunni Muslim and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the first Egyptian leader in 30 years to visit Iran – an ally of Syrian Prime Minister Bashar al-Assad's Shi'ite dominated regime.

In a strongly worded speech, which caused Syrian foreign minister Walid al Muallem to walk out in protest, Morsi called the Syrian regime "oppressive", saying that it has lost legitimacy. Delegates were told, "[t]he bloodshed in Syria is our responsibility on all our shoulders and we have to know that the bloodshed cannot stop without effective interference from all of us."

Morsi called on delegates to "[...] announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom."

For the Syrian government, foreign minister al Muallem subsequently told state media that President Morsi was interfering in Syrian domestic affairs and inciting further violence in the conflict.

Morsi's speech was viewed by commentators as a direct rebuke to Iran and a message that they had chosen the wrong side in the Syrian conflict. The speech also allayed fears in the west that his attendance at a meeting of non-aligned countries indicated a change in Egyptian foreign policy to a less pro-Western stance.