The Syrian government yesterday condemned Egypt’s decision to cut ties with Damascus and back the armed uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling it an “irresponsible” move.
“The Syrian Arab Republic condemns this irresponsible position,” an unnamed Syrian official told state news agency SANA.
The official said Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi had joined the “conspiracy and incitement led by the United States and Israel against Syria by announcing the cutting of ties yesterday.”
“Syria is confident that this decision does not represent the will of the Egyptian people,” the official added, accusing Morsi of announcing the severing of ties to deflect attention from internal crises he faces at home.
Morsi, an Islamist from the Muslim Brotherhood Party, announced on Saturday the “definitive” severing of ties with war-torn Syria and the recall of Egypt’s charge d’affaires in Damascus.
He called for the international community to impose a no-fly zone and denounced the role of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah in Syria, whose members are helping the Syrian army.
Morsi made his announcement amid growing calls from hardline Sunni clerics in Egypt and elsewhere to launch a “holy war” against Syria’s embattled regime.
“Hezbollah must leave Syria. This is serious talk: There is no business or place for Hezbollah in Syria,” Morsi told thousands of supporters at a rally in Cairo.
Al-Assad’s regime will have no place in the future of Syria after committing what Morsi called “horrors” against its people.
Morsi’s address and the fiery rhetoric used by well-known Muslim clerics over the weekend point to the increasing perception of the Syrian conflict as sectarian. At least 93,000 people have been killed since turmoil there began more than two years ago.
Morsi addressed the rally after several hardline Islamist clerics spoke, all of whom called on him to do everything he could to help the Syrian rebels. The about 20,000 people attending the rally chanted for solidarity with the Syrians, but occasionally deviated to shout slogans in support of Morsi.
Morsi also used the occasion to warn his opponents at home against the use of violence in mass protests planned for June 30, the anniversary of his assumption to power. Before he spoke, one hardline cleric, Mohammed Abdel-Maqsoud, recited an often repeated Muslim prayer against the “enemies” of God and Islam, but used it to refer to the protesters.
The climate at the rally appeared to further entrench the division of Egypt into two camps: one led by Morsi, the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups; and the other grouping the secular and liberal opposition with moderate Muslims, minority Christians and a large percentage of women.