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Egypt's Morsi Urges Arab Action on Syria

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Egypt's president has made an impassioned plea to fellow Arab leaders to bring an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi urged Arab leaders to make ending the conflict in Syria the region's top priority.

"Any talk of developing the Arab world's work, and building our shared future, cannot gain the momentum we want in reality as long as the Syrian people's suffering continues,” Morsi said.

Making his first appearance as president before the Arab League Wednesday, Morsi outlined his plan for a regional quartet -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran -- to work toward a negotiated settlement. He also repeated his call for the Syrian government to step down.

"There is still a chance to stop the bloodshed. There is no room for pride or bidding. Don't listen to the voices that tempt you to stay because you will not be here for long,” Morsi said.

Syria's information minister this week rejected Mr. Morsi's effort, dismissing him as a stooge of the United States and Israel.

But in Cairo, Syrian opposition members who have been holding vigil outside the Arab League welcomed Mr. Morsi's plan in general.

Activist Nawras el Sag said he was delighted -- but with reservations.

“This is the first time an Arab leader said something we value. But we wished for more. He could at least talk about the channel that distributes arms to Syria from Iran. He should have said it needs to be closed," el Sag said.

El Sag also questioned Mr. Morsi's plan to include Iran in the talks, given Tehran's support for the Syrian government.

"Women, young ladies, the elderly, are all killed by Iran. It is our enemy and we regard it the same as Bashar ((al-Assad)), our number one enemy," El Sag said.

Activist Khalil el Kordi, though, held out hope that including Iran could help stop the bloodshed.

“Iran should take a stance on the grounds that it works by honor, in accordance with Islam, work by its religion. Simply, today, a Muslim should not kill a Muslim,” el Kordi said.

Morsi's plan coincides with a joint effort by the Arab League and the United Nations to send a new special envoy to Syria. But few on either side of the conflict, or among those trying to bring it to an end, predict either mission will bring about any change soon.

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