In this picture taken by semi-official Mehr News Agency, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, addresses a summit of the Nonaligned Movement. Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi arrived in Tehran on Thursday in the first visit by an Egyptian leader to Iran after decades of hostility between the two countries. (Photo: AP)
"We suspect that this statement has to do with his Muslim Brotherhood affiliations; this is what we felt anyway, and we hope we are mistaken and we do hope that Egypt would always assume its leading role in the Arab world by doing what is in the best interests of Syria and its people."
This was the remark that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem offered to Ahram Online in regards to the recent statements made by President Mohamed Morsi against the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad.
Addressing the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that opened today in Tehran, Morsi, who had so far been cautious with his categorisation of the situation in Syria, went so far as to say that the Syrian regime had "lost its legitimacy."
Morsi also called the Syrian regime an "oppressor" that is responsible for Syrian bloodshed and called on the roughly 120 NAM member states to go beyond expressions of sympathy and help Syrians free themselves from the oppression.
The demonstrations against the rule of the Alawite Assad family, in office, father and son, since the 1970s, started in March of last year following the fall of Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak. So far, Cairo had been very cautious about taking a stance on developments in Syria. Cairo was one of the last Arab capitals to recall its ambassador from Damascus and had more or less distanced itself from calls for Assad to step down.
Aware of the fact that a good part of the militant faction of the anti-Assad demonstrations, which started peacefully but quickly turned violent, belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi – himself a leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – had been very cautious with his statements on Syria.
Today, Al-Moallem argued that the Muslim Brotherhood affiliation is controlling Morsi, who "violated the limits of his status as the outgoing chair of the NAM summit by addressing Syrian developments in this way."
Al-Moallem and the rest of the Syrian delegation walked out of the summit hall in Tehran while Morsi was speaking. "This was a normal reaction against the direct intervention in our internal affairs," Al-Moallem told Ahram Online.
According to the foreign minister, who heads his country's delegation to the summit in Tehran, the situation in Syria could still go through a political process that could eventually accommodate all points of view. But for this to happen, he added, there must be a true will on the part of the international community, especially Washington and its allies, which are now working "to divide Syria and undermine its regional status and influence."
"There is a global conspiracy against Syria; the militant groups are given endless support, including arms and money, mainly through neighbouring countries. The objective is to maintain the bloodshed and keep the violence going," Al-Moallem said.
In the absence of good faith, the Syrian foreign minister argued, it is pointless for the Syrian regime to offer any fresh initiatives or attempt to come up with any creative solutions to the current crisis.
According to Al-Moallem, the core of the plan proposed by recently resigned UN-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan could have helped end the "troubles" in Syria. "But the Annan plan failed due to the lack of good faith on the side of all concerned parties," he said.
For Al-Moallem, it does not take a genius to know that the way forward should depend on a three-step approach: the immediate suspension of all acts of violence, the withdrawal of all militants and militaries, and broad national dialogue between the regime and all opposition factions "no matter how divided they are."
"The question is about the outcome of this dialogue, and we say that whatever comes out of this dialogue should be put before a popular referendum, because ultimately it should be the Syrian people, all the Syrian people, to decide their own fate," Al-Moallem said.
What is happening in Syria now, according to the statement that Morsi made in Tehran this morning, is a "revolution" in keeping with the ideals of the "Arab Spring," which erupted early last year with the Tunis Revolution and which was followed closely by revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
For Al-Moallem, however, what is going in Syria now is the result of Western plans to re-divide the Middle East in line with the geo-political interests of Washington, Europe, Israel and their allies. "It is therefore the role of an organisation like NAM to stand against this scheme," Al-Moallem said shortly after Morsi's speech.
"We were hoping that Egypt would assume a positive role in this respect, and we're still hoping so," he concluded.