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Syria Rebuffs Egypt's Bid for Negotiated End to Conflict

  • Elizabeth Arrott

The Syrian government has again lashed out at its regional critics, in particular Egypt, whose leader has called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

As fighting continues, the Syrian government says it welcomes another attempt to bring an end to the conflict - this time by new United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

But Syria's Information minister Omran al-Zoubi mocked Egypt and its attempts to find a solution to the civil war, arguing that President Mohamed Morsi is a puppet of the United States and Israel.

"What has the - in quotation marks - “revolutionary” Egypt done with Camp David? What has Egypt and Mohamed Morsi done with the Egyptian gas transported to Israel?," al-Zoubi said.

Morsi, who has been trying to raise his international profile, has made clear he wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go.

"The ones who will decide what to do with this regime are the Syrian people and the Syrian people have spoken clearly to the whole world that this regime has to go,” Morsi said.

Despite his support for the opposition, Morsi has called for a regional conference, including pro-Assad Iran, to find a negotiated settlement.

"We are against any military action on Syrian soil, in any shape or form. We want to intervene using peaceful, effective and efficient means to enable the Syrian people to achieve their goals from this revolution and this movement for freedom," Morsi said.

Morsi finds support among many in Egypt, who argue that Iran's backing of Assad prolongs the inevitable, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar's arming of the opposition ignores the question of a stable transition.

“For Egypt, these two blocs don't care for it. We need any peaceful settlement in Syria, whether Bashar would be there or not. Of course, if you ask me about Morsi himself, he doesn't like Bashar,“ said veteran diplomat Abdullah al Ashaal

Al Ashaal says Morsi, who comes from the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, sympathizes with Islamist elements fighting the secular Alawite Assad.

He adds that Morsi's election following a popular uprising also has a bearing on his position, as do historic ties between Egyptians and Syrians.

Parliament member Manar Shorbagy says the human factor looms largest in Egyptian popular sentiment.

“It has nothing to do with Sunni or Shi'ite, 'this is a majority, this is a minority'. Who cares? These people are (being) killed. I mean, they're human beings and they're killed,” Shorbagy said.

While hopes are low that either U.N. envoy Brahimi's or Morsi's efforts will bear fruit, the stepped-up pressure has put the Syrian government at further odds with much of the world.

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