Egyptian bodyguards surround President Mohammed Morsi, right, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, second right, as they leave the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (Photo: AP)
"Syria, Syria." With these words, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday ended his speech at this year's annual meeting of the Cairo-based Arab League. It was the first ministerial-level Arab League meeting in years to be directly addressed by Egypt's president.
The session was jointly headed by Morsi and Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.
In his speech, Morsi asserted that it was "time for the Syrian regime to step down," stressing that it was an Arab responsibility to find a viable resolution to the ongoing crisis.
"We should help the Syrians avoid civil war and avert foreign military intervention," Morsi asserted.
"I tell the Syrian regime: there is still a chance to end the bloodshed. Now is the time for change," he added.
Morsi went on to say there was "no time to waste" in discussing proposed reforms, stressing that the Assad regime "has to leave to stop the carnage."
He also called on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to "take lessons from recent history," in reference to the fall of longstanding regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen in the wake of the so-called 'Arab Spring.'
"Do something and we'll support you," Morsi told Arab diplomats before leaving the meeting.
Last week, Morsi addressed the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran, where he said that the regime in Damascus had "lost its legitimacy."
He also called the Assad regime an "oppressor" that bore responsibility for the ongoing violence, calling on the roughly 120 NAM member-states to go beyond mere expressions of sympathy and help the Syrian people "free themselves" from alleged government oppression.
On the Palestine/Israel issue, Morsi told Arab diplomats convened at the Arab League that the Palestinians continued to suffer under an "unjust occupation," stressing that Arabs should support the Palestinians' ongoing struggle for their legitimate rights and an independent state.
The Egyptian president went on to urge the Arabs to pressure the international community to support the Palestinian cause.
"Egypt supports any initiative by the Palestinians that would help them earn membership in the United Nations," Morsi stated.
The Muslim Brotherhood president concluded by saying that diplomatic changes backed by popular will could lead to real political action, and that this was the key to restoring Palestinian rights.
"Egypt bears responsibility for continuing its efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue," he said.
There was no Syrian delegation at Wednesday's Arab League meeting , as Damascus' membership in the pan-Arab organisation was suspended last November.