Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s president, has told an Arab League conference that “change” of government is needed in violence-wracked Syria and that time should not be wasted “speaking of reform”.
“This time has passed now. Now it is time for change,” Morsi, who was making his first presidential address to the league, said on Wednesday in the capital Cairo.
He said that a quartet of regional states – Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt – would meet to discuss the Syrian crisis, which started 17 months ago as an insurrection, but has turned into a civil war with opposition fighters battling to dislodge Bashar al-Assad from power.
“The quartet which Egypt has called for will meet now,” Morsi told a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, without giving more details of the gathering.
Morsi’s comments follows his speech at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in the Iranian capital Tehran where he called it an “ethical duty” to support the Syrian people against the “oppressive regime” in Damascus.
He said Assad must learn from “recent history” and step down before it was too late, alluding to the fate of authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen that have been overthrown by Arab uprisings.
“I tell the Syrian regime ‘there is still a chance to end the bloodshed’,” Morsi said, adding: “Don’t take the right step at the wrong time… because that would be the wrong step.”
Morsi, who in June was elected Egypt’s first Islamist leader after an uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, urged the Arab diplomats to move quickly to resolve the Syrian conflict which has left 26,000 people dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Cairo, said Morsi recognised that Iran could not be ingored if a solution was to be found for the conflict in Syria.
“Morsi’s speech touched many issues related to the Arab uprisings. Regarding Syria, he said there should be an Arab solution for the conflict,” said our correspondent.
“The Syrian blood that is being shed day and night, we are responsible for this,” Morsi said.
“We cannot sleep while Syrian blood is being shed.
“I call on you, Arab foreign ministers, to work hard to find an urgent solution to the tragedy in Syria.
“If we don’t move, the world won’t move with any seriousness.”