UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Egypt opposes foreign military intervention to stop the civil war in Syria and prefers an inclusive, negotiated settlement, Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, said on Wednesday.
“Egypt is committed to pursue the sincere efforts it has been exerting to put an end to the catastrophe in Syria within an Arab, regional and international framework,” Mursi said in his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
Such a solution should be “one that preserves the unity of this brotherly state, involves all factions of the Syrian people without racial, religious or sectarian discrimination and spares Syria the dangers of foreign military intervention that we oppose,” he said.
Mursi’s comments contrasted with those of Qatari leader Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who called on Arab countries on Tuesday to bypass the U.N. Security Council and intervene directly to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
Mursi has been outspoken about Syria since he took office on June 30. He has described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government as “oppressive” and said it is necessary to support the Syrian people.
“We will continue to work to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and provide them an opportunity to choose freely that regime that best represents them,” Mursi said.
However, the Islamist president cancelled a meeting of four regional powers on the Syria crisis - Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia - planned for this week due to the absence of Turkey’s prime minister from the U.N. General Assembly.
In the wake of anti-U.S. protests in Egypt and other Muslim countries sparked by a video made in California insulting to the Prophet Mohammad, Mursi called for increased understanding and “respect” of cultural and religious beliefs.
“What Muslims and migrants are going through in a number of regions worldwide, in terms of discrimination and violation of their human rights ... is unacceptable,” he said.
“These practices have become pervasive enough that they now carry a name: ‘Islamophobia,'” he added.
“Egypt respects freedom of expression, one that is not used to incite hatred against anyone,” said Mursi, echoing comments to the assembly by several other leaders of Muslim countries.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the violence sparked by the video, which depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a womanizer, fool and child abuser. But he stressed that the U.S. government had nothing to do with its production and staunchly defended free speech.
Reporting By Amena Bakr and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by David Brunnstrom and Will Dunham