Egypt’s new Islamist President Mohamed Morsi urged the US late on Saturday to change its approach to the Arab world to be able to repair relations and revitalize an alliance with Egypt. Morsi was to travel to New York yesterday to take part in a meeting of the UN General Assembly.
“Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region,” the president told the New York Times in an interview.
The newspaper reported that he was referring to US backing of -dictatorial governments in the region and Washington’s unconditional support for Israel. The remarks followed days of violent anti-US protests in Cairo sparked by an amateur anti-Islamic film posted on YouTube. During these events, Morsi called on demonstrators to show restraint while condemning the film ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed.
Morsi praised US President Barack Obama for moving “decisively and quickly” to support the Arab Spring revolutions, arguing that the US supported “the right of the people of the region to enjoy the same freedoms that Americans have.”
However, he also expressed concern about the plight of Palestinians, who still do not have their own state, the paper said.
Americans, he said, “have a special responsibility” for the Palestinians because the US had signed the 1978 Camp David accord, which called for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza to allow for full Palestinian self-rule.
“As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled,” he said.
According to the Times, Morsi was evasive when asked if he considered the US an ally.
“That depends on your definition of ally,” he said, adding that he considered the two nations “real friends.”
The issue was thrust to the forefront of bilateral relations earlier this month, when Obama suggested that Cairo was neither an ally nor a foe.
US Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland and other top administration officials then tried to distance from Obama’s comment by acknowledging that officially Egypt was still “major non-NATO ally.”
Egypt was granted such status under US law in 1989, allowing it to enjoy a close relationship with the US military, along with other allies, including Australia, Japan, Jordan, Israel and Thailand.
In his interview, Morsi also reaffirmed his links to the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious organization viewed by many in the US with suspicion.
“I grew up with the Muslim Brotherhood,” the president said. “I learned my principles in the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned how to love my country with the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned politics with the Brotherhood. I was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
He also said the US should not expect Egypt to live by its rules as the West, underscoring a cultural divide between the two nations.
“If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment,” he said. “When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the US. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt.”
Morsi initially sought to meet with Obama at the White House, the Times said, but he received a cool reception, and the idea was dropped.