News / Middle East

Morsi Cuts Egypt's Syria Ties, Backs No-fly Zone

In this handout picture Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi gives a speech to thousands of Islamists and Syrian opposition supporters during the
In this handout picture Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi gives a speech to thousands of Islamists and Syrian opposition supporters during the "support for Syria" rally at Cairo stadium, June 15, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Credit: Ho/Egyptian Presidency)
Reuters
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said he had cut all diplomatic ties with Damascus on Saturday and backed a no-fly zone over Syria, pitching the most populous Arab state more firmly against President Bashar al-Assad.

Addressing a rally called by Sunni Muslim clerics in Cairo, the Sunni Islamist head of state also warned Assad's ally, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah, to pull back from fighting in Syria.

"Hezbollah must leave Syria. These are serious words," said Morsi, whose country hosted a conference of Sunni clerics this week who issued a call for holy war against Damascus. "There is no space or place for Hezbollah in Syria."

The rally underscored the region's deepening sectarian rift. A cleric who spoke before Morsi described Shi'ites as heretics, infidels, oppressors and polytheists.

It was also a show of support for Morsi as his opponents mobilize for protests to demand early presidential elections.

Morsi waved Syrian and Egyptian flags as he entered the auditorium packed with 20,000 supporters. The crowd chanted: "From the free revolutionaries of Egypt: We will stamp on you, Bashar!"

Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood politician, steered clear of direct references to Shi'ites and Iran but in a partial allusion to Tehran, he accused states in the region and beyond of feeding "a campaign of extermination and planned ethnic cleansing" in Syria.

"We decided today to entirely break off relations with Syria and with the current Syrian regime," he said. He also urged world powers not to hesitate to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria.

Western diplomats said on Friday that Washington was considering a limited no-fly zone over parts of Syria, but the White House said later that the United States had no national interest in pursuing that option.

Russia, an ally of Assad and fierce opponent of outside military intervention in Syria, said any attempt to impose a no-fly zone using F-16 fighter jets and Patriots based in Jordan would be illegal.

Morsi said he was organizing an urgent summit of Arab and other Islamic states to discuss the situation in Syria, where the United States has in recent days decided to take steps to arm the rebels.

Egypt's U.S.-funded and -trained army is among the most powerful in the Middle East. There has been no suggestion, however, that Egypt, a country steeped in poverty, should get involved in the fighting in Syria.

Warns Against Violence

Morsi said: "The Egyptian people supports the struggle of the Syrian people, materially and morally, and Egypt, its nation, leadership ... and army, will not abandon the Syrian people until it achieves its rights and dignity."

The Brotherhood has joined calls this week from Sunni Muslim religious organizations for jihad against Assad and his Shi'ite allies.

Egypt has not taken an active role in arming the Syrian rebels, but an aide to Morsi said this week that Cairo would not stand in the way of Egyptians who wanted to fight in Syria.

It marked Morsi's second combative foreign policy speech in less than a week. On Monday, he said Egypt would keep "all options open" for dealing with a dispute with Ethiopia over a giant dam it is building on the Nile, though he said Cairo did not want war and stressed it would work diplomatically.

Morsi's liberal and leftist opponents are mobilizing for mass protests on June 30, the anniversary of Morsi coming to office, fuelling fears of possible further violence.

Morsi told his Islamist supporters at the rally that they must not be dragged into confrontations and that he would not tolerate any violence.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs