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Mursi makes landmark visit to Arab League

Egypt’s president tells Al Assad to learn from history

Image Credit: AP
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, left, greets Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi, as he leaves the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Wednesday. Mursi says Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad must learn from "recent history" and step down before it is too late.
Gulf News

Cairo: Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi yesterday said his country is keen to revive its “historical and natural” role in the Arab world after what he called decades of sidelining.

“Egypt returns to play an interactive and integrated role with the Arab World,” Mursi said in an address at the Arab League, in the first visit by an Egyptian president in many years to the pan-Arab organisation.

He vowed that Egypt, where a popular revolt toppled former strongman Hosni Mubarak more than a year ago, will not “export the revolution”, in a reassuring sign to rulers of other Arab countries.

“We seek cooperation based on respect for the sovereignty of Arab countries and non-interference in their affairs.”

However, Mursi described the uprising that forced Mubarak out of power as “an uprising of all Arabs”. Mursi was elected in June as Egypt’s first civilian and Islamist president.

Calling for a “real” development of joint Arab action, Mursi told the Arab League foreign ministers that they had had to work seriously to end 18-month bloodshed in Syria.

“I tell the Syrian regime that there is still a chance to stem the bloodshed in Syria,” Mursi said. “The Syrian regime has to learn lessons from history… The time has come for change in Syria. There is no room for reforms any more,” added Mursi, calling for an “Arab solution” with international backing to the Syrian crisis. The Egyptian leader said his country opposes foreign military intervention in Syria.

His call came hours after more than 30 people were injured in clashes between police and anti-Al Assad demonstrators outside the Syrian embassy.

Last month, Mursi proposed creating a contact group on Syria comprising Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran — the latter being a staunch ally of Al Assad.

Mursi urged fractured Syrian opposition groups to come up with a “unified and comprehensive vision” for initiating democratic transformation in Syria.. The Arab League has suspended Syria’s membership in protest against Al Assad’s crackdown on the opposition.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian leader accused Israel, without naming it, of reducing on-and-off peacemaking efforts with the Palestinians to a “process of time waste and missed opportunities”. He voiced full support for a Palestinian bid to be a full-fledged member of the United Nations.

“The Palestinian problem is our prime cause. We will not move forward without finding a fair and comprehensive solution to it,” he said.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign peace with Israel in 1979. However, the two countries’ relations have been frosty since Mubarak’s ouster. Mursi has repeatedly said he would observe Egypt’s international treaties, despite his veiled criticisms of Israeli policy.