Egypt's Morsi calls for end to 'oppressive' Syrian regime
It's something of a surprise for Morsi to call for Assad's ouster -- given that the Egyptian president was attending a meeting of the non-aligned nations in Iran who is a strong backer of Syria. And it is clear that he's hoping that a post-Assad Syria will see another Muslim Brotherhood triumph.
But his statement has put a definite chill on his warming relations with Iran.
Egypt called on Thursday for intervention to halt bloodshed in Syria, telling a meeting of 120 nations it was their duty to stand against the "oppressive regime" of Bashar al-Assad, prompting a Syrian walkout.
President Mohamed Mursi, elected two months ago after a popular uprising toppled Egypt's long-standing leader Hosni Mubarak, said Assad had lost legitimacy in his fight to crush a 17-month-old revolt in which 20,000 people have been killed.
Mursi's scathing speech to a summit of non-aligned leaders, hosted by Assad's Shi'ite ally Iran, prompted Syria's foreign minister to accuse the moderate Sunni Islamist leader of inciting further bloodshed in Syria.
The political broadside against the Syrian president came as rebels said they shot down a fighter plane in northern Syria, where his air force has been bombarding opposition-held towns in a fierce counter-offensive against insurgents.
It was the latest strike by Assad's foes on the air power he has increasingly relied on to crush the uprising. Rebels said this week they attacked a northern military air base and shot down a helicopter that was bombarding a district of Damascus.
"The bloodshed in Syria is our responsibility on all our shoulders and we have to know that the bloodshed cannot stop without effective interference from all of us," Mursi said.
"We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom."
His comments prompted Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem to storm out of the meeting, complaining that Mursi was inciting fighters to "continue shedding Syrian blood", Syrian state television said.
Concern over Morsi's shift toward Iran is not exactly misplaced, but there really is a lot that divides the two countries -- matters of faith being a big one. There is also the desire of both countries to dominate the region, putting them at loggerheads for the foreseeable future.
But on one big issue, they may cooperate; the destruction of Israel. While they may see eye to eye on killing the Jews, Morsi would probably not go to war if Iran is attacked simply because Egypt is a lot closer to Israel than Iran and would bear the brunt of any Israeli response. More likely, the two nations would cooperate in isolating Israel and helping to create a solid bloc of nations opposed to Israeli policy.