Addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time since becoming his country’s first democratically and freely elected civilian President, Egypt’s Mohamed Morsy highlighted his nation’s progress over the past 18 months, while citing the issue of Palestine as “the first issue which the world must exert all its efforts in resolving.”
“Long decades have passed since the Palestinian people expressed their longing for restoring their full rights and for building their independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital,” President Morsy told the Assembly’s General Debate, which began on Tuesday at UN Headquarters in New York.
“Despite their continued struggle, through all legitimate means to attain their rights, and despite the acceptance by their representatives of the resolutions adopted by the international community as a basis for resolving its problems, this international legitimacy remains unable until now to realize the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people,” he added. “The resolutions remain far from being implemented.”
The Middle East peace process is currently at a standstill, with Israeli-Palestinian talks stalled, following Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Noting that the Arab world has presented a comprehensive peace initiative for resolving the conflict, President Morsy assured the delegates in the General Assembly Hall of Egypt’s full support for any course of action that Palestine decides to follow at the United Nations.
“I call upon all of you, just as you have supported the revolutions of the Arab peoples, to lend your support to the Palestinians in their endeavours to regain the full and legitimate rights of a people struggling to gain its freedom and establish its independent state,” he said.
While Palestine is not a member of the UN General Assembly, in 2011 the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) became the first UN agency to admit it as a full member following a vote by UNESCO’s General Conference, the agency’s highest ruling body.
The Egyptian leader also noted that his country remains committed to the international agreements and conventions that it has previously adhered to, while also noting that Egyptians support “the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and are determined to pursue all efforts side by side with them until they regain their rights.”
The crisis in Syria also figured prominently in President Morsy’s statement to the General Debate. Noting an Egyptian initiative on Syria, put forward in August and involving three other countries, the President said they would continue to work to end the suffering in Syria, where more than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago. A further 2.5 million Syrians urgently need humanitarian aid, according to UN estimates.
“I would like to emphasize that the initiative is open to all those who wish to positively contribute in resolving the Syrian crisis,” President Morsy said, adding that Egypt is also committed to supporting the mission of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, as well as efforts aimed at unifying Syrian opposition groups.
President Morsy also flagged Egypt’s commitment to working with other Arab nations to reclaim its “rightful position” in the world. “This Arab nation is an integral component of Egypt’s vision of its national security, which extends from the Arab Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean, and is thriving with opportunities of cooperation and constructive engagement with the entire world,” he said.
The Egyptian leader came to office in an election process that ended in June this year. The polls were the first presidential election since the toppling of the long-standing regime of Hosni Mubarak amid popular protests in January 2011, and widely seen as a key element of the country’s transition to greater democracy.
“We have taken several steps on the road towards establishing the modern state the Egyptians aspire for,” President Morsy said. “The vision of the new Egypt that we strive to realize for our nation also constitutes the frame of action we present to the world, and which should guide our cooperation with the international community, in a spirit of equality and mutual respect, entailing non-intervention in the affairs of other states as well as the implementation of the international principles, agreements and conventions.”
He added, “Today we reiterate our commitment to them, particularly the United Nations Charter, which Egypt took part in drafting.”
Referring to an anti-Islamic video produced in the state of California by a US citizen, as well as cartoons published in a French magazine, which have led to cities in North Africa and the Middle East recently experiencing violent protests in response, President Morsy said that Egypt respects freedom of expression – “one that is not used to incite hatred against anyone” – and stands firmly against the use of violence in expressing objection to such items.
Other topics covered in his statement to the General Debate included relations between Sudan and South Sudan, the outlook for Somalia following the end of its transitional governing arrangements, nuclear disarmament, relations with Africa, reform of the international financial system and UN reform. He also emphasized the need for the United Nations to give special attention to supporting women and youth issues.
The Egyptian leader is one of scores of heads of State and government and other high-level officials who are presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.