Morsy preaches new world relations in UN speech

In his first speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly, President Mohamed Morsy spared no effort, observers argued, to stress a visionary discourse for reforming international relations, in which connections depend on mutual interest and parity.

Morsy’s attempt to position himself as a spokesperson for the developing world was clear Wednesday through his discussion of international economic governance and development problems within the African continent, as well as his firm stance on the Palestinian and Syrian dilemmas.

The phrase “We Africans” was a strong reference to Egypt’s African identity, rarely stressed previously in Egyptian foreign policy. It comes after decades of neglect of the African continent, a practice championed by the despotic Mubarak regime.

“The simplest revision in the direction of international relations will show the amount of injustice [practiced] against Africa,” Morsy said.

“Countries of the world have to support Africa with more than just promises and wishes through providing the necessary support it needs to regain its stolen fortunes,” he added.

Morsy said that Sudan has not received the support it deserves, calling for greater effort from the international community to provide support and to help resolve outstanding conflicts with South Sudan.

Prime Minister Hesham Qandil opened the first branch of Egypt’s Ahly National Bank in Khartoum last week following talks between Morsy and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s on Egyptian investment in Sudan.

Shortly after calling for more support for Bashir’s Sudan in his UN speech, Morsy declared that the people of the region would no longer tolerate dictatorship.

He also called on the General Assembly to help the newly elected government in Somalia combat attempts to destabilize the country.

Professor of Middle East Politics at the American University in Cairo Minza Fahmy tells Egypt Independent that Morsy’s rhetoric represents an obvious improvement in the government's approach to Africa, highlighting the need for Egypt to further strengthen its regional role on the continent and elsewhere.

"Morsy did not condemn the human rights atrocities committed by the Bashir regime in South Sudan, reflecting a foreign policy in which Egypt is a mediator and a friend to everyone," Fahmy contends.

Others argue that Morsy’s rhetoric echoed that used by the Mubarak regime, and remains “just talk” without a means for implementation.

“I see no difference from the rhetoric used by the Egyptian presidency in the last 20 years or so, the only difference is that Morsy is an elected president,” political commentator Bassem Sabry says.

Morsy’s comments, Sabry argues, reflect a desire to keep good relations with Sudan, not an embrace of Egypt’s African identity.

Yet, Sabry praises Morsy’s use of the phrase “We Africans,” regarding it as a turning point in the way Islamist politicians look at Egypt’s identity.

Morsy also said that the ongoing economic crisis should encourage the international community to restructure decision-making processes to include the input of the developing world.

"Small countries who do not participate in the decision-making process are the ones mostly affected by these decisions," he said.

However, Morsy did not go on to outline how international economic decision-making should be reformed.

In addition to reaching out to the developing world, Morsy strongly appealed to the Muslim community.

The president stressed the need to respect the cultural specificity of the Muslim and Arab world, calling for an end to discrimination against Muslims across the world.

“This contradicts with the simplest principles of the [UN], as it became a [known] phenomenon: hate of Islam or Islamophobia,” Morsy said.

Observers argue that it was understandable for Morsy to stress his Muslim identity during his speech to the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, but that his discussion of Islamophobia in front of the UN was excessive.

“He could have spoken less about Islamophobia,” Fahmy believes, adding that Morsy did not also condemn the violence some Muslims committed in reaction to a movie considered blasphemous against Islam.

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