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 "support for Syria" rally at Cairo stadium, June 15, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Credit: Ho/Egyptian Presidency)
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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid