Leaders of Islamic nations have called for a negotiated end to Syria’s civil war at a summit in Cairo, thrusting Egypt’s new Islamist president to centre stage amid political and economic turbulence at home.
“For the first time, Egypt heads the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit since the great revolution of January 25,” President Mohamed Morsi said on the concluding day of the meeting on Thursday.
“All of you supported Egypt during this revolution and I saw through you and your people how joyous you became because of this revolution and how, God willing, this revolution represents the corner stone for this region to steer forward towards development, growth, justice and social justice,” he said.
The summit of the 57-member OIC had opened on Wednesday, a day when the assassination of leading Tunisian opposition figure Shokri Belaid highlighted the fragility of “Arab Spring” democratic revolutions in North Africa.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki cancelled his trip to the Cairo meeting after Belaid, a staunch secular opponent of the moderate Islamist government, was shot dead outside his home, triggering street protests.
With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad making an ice-breaking visit to Egypt after 34 years of estrangement,
the two-day meeting was focusing on how to stop the bloodshed in Syria. Tehran is one of President Bashar al-Assad’s last allies.
In a keynote address, Morsi called on “the ruling regime” in Damascus to learn the lessons of history and not put its interests above those of the nation.
“Egypt is extremely keen on bringing an end to the Syrian crisis in the quickest time possible in order to save the bloodshed of the Syrian people and to preserve its land. The ruling government in Syria must revert to history and learn its lesson: the people are the ones who remain and those who put their own interests ahead of their people, are bound to go,” Mursi said.
He also urged all OIC members to support the Syrian opposition’s efforts to unite and bring about change.
Ahmadinejad earlier told Egyptian journalists there could be no military solution and he was encouraged that the Syrian government and opposition were moving towards negotiations to end the conflict in which at least 60,000 people have died.
A communique drafted by OIC foreign ministers and seen by Reuters blames Assad’s government for most of the slaughter and urges it to open talks on a political transition.
Diplomats said Iran had objected to the wording and it might be toned down to spread responsibility more evenly.