At the recent summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi suggested a series of talks between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran concerning the civil war in Syria. Egypt and Saudi Arabia support the rebels. Iran supports the al Assad regime. Turkey not only supports the rebels, it is dealing with tens of thousands of refugees from Syria.
The first round of talks will take place Monday and involve senior foreign ministry officials of the participating countries. Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr told the press that these meetings are preparation for meetings of higher foreign ministry officials, hopefully, within “coming days.
Egypt’s goal is to stop the violence in Syria, guarantee the country’s territorial integrity, prevent any foreign military intervention and begin a political process so the Syrian people fulfill their “aspirations for democracy, freedom and dignity.” The proposal does not call for the removal of Bashar al Assad and his regime because, according to Amr, “We are still at an early stage. The Foreign Ministry statement lays down the principles of action. In the end, we want the interest of the Syrian people and the quickest end to the bloodshed.”
Turkey is being represented by their former ambassador to Syria, Omer Onhon, and Iran by Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
Some analysts have suggested that President Mursi is attempting to re-boot Egypt’s place in the region, establish new relationships within the Arab sphere, and assert the legitimacy of his elected government, which many are wary of because of the majority presence of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is in a unique position to begin the process of transitioning the region following the revolutions in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, and the reforms in Morocco. Mursi stated at the NAM conference that it is an “ethical duty” to support those who are rebelling against an “oppressive regime.” Those his words were directed at the situation in Syria, they can be interpreted as a more far-reaching statement of support for change in other countries where a single party, an absolute monarch or a minority control the government. Egypt has managed to hold fairly open elections and chosen a government that the West is not entirely comfortable with. How Mursi handles the transition to a new constitution and the creation of a democratic government will probably impact the possibility of change elsewhere.