CAIRO - Egypt's new Islamist president said on Monday he would pursue a
"balanced" foreign policy, reassuring Israel its peace treaty was safe,
hinting at a new approach to Iran and calling on Syrian Bashar Assad's
allies to help lever the Syrian leader out.
Mohamed Morsy, who
was elected in June and consolidated his power this month by dismissing
top military leaders, is seeking to introduce himself to a wider world
ahead of a trip to Iran - the first by an Egyptian leader in three
decades - and China.
"Egypt is now a civilian state ... a
national, democratic, constitutional, modern state," he told Reuters in
his first interview with an international news organization since taking
office as the candidate of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
relations between all states are open and the basis for all relations
is balance. We are not against anyone but we are for achieving our
interests," said the US-educated engineer, appearing confident and
assertive in the marble-lined presidential palace.
leader Egyptians have elected in a 5,000-year history dating back to the
pharaohs, he spoke in a room for visiting dignitaries surrounded by
monarchy-era furniture, oil paintings and a grand tapestry on the wall.
61, came to power after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, who served for
decades as a loyal US ally and the guarantor of Egypt's status as the
first Arab country to make peace with Israel.
His emphasis on
balance suggests he is seeking a less explicitly pro-American role in
the region, but he has also been at pains to reassure traditional
Morsy's Brotherhood describes Israel as a racist and
expansionist state, but he resigned from it on taking power and has
avoided inflammatory language. He repeated his position that Egypt will
continue to abide by international treaties, including its 1979 peace
Without mentioning Israel by name, he indicated Egypt's
neighbor had nothing to fear from a new military campaign in the Sinai
Peninsula, which he ordered after gunmen attacked an Egyptian border
post, killed 16 guards and tried to burst across the frontier into
Israel. "Egypt is practicing its very normal role on its soil and does
not threaten anyone and there should not be any kind of international or
regional concerns at all from the presence of Egyptian security
forces," he said, referring to the extra police, army and other forces
moved to the area.
The military campaign was in "full respect to
international treaties", he said. The Egypt-Israel peace deal includes
limits on Egyptian military deployment in Sinai.
Israel, already concerned that Egypt's Islamists will support the
Brotherhood-offshoot Hamas in Gaza, have voiced worries about Egypt's
build-up of heavy armor in Sinai to quash militants.
not say if he would meet Israeli officials. Mubarak regularly received
top officials although only went to Israel once for a funeral.
an effort to increase Egypt's role in regional affairs, Morsy has
called for dialogue between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran to find
a way to stop the bloodshed in Syria. Notably, the initiative has been
welcomed by Iran, the only country in the group that supports Assad.
his interview, Morsy gave a particularly strong call for Assad to be
removed from power, suggesting that he is comfortable taking a high
profile role in regional affairs. It is a message he will take on his
trip to Iran and China, which, along with Russia, are the main countries
"Now is the time to stop this bloodshed and for
the Syrian people to regain their full rights and for this regime that
kills its people to disappear from the scene," Morsy said.
is no room to talk about reform, but the discussion is about change,"
Morsy said, adding Egypt had repeated that "the friends of the Syrian
people in China and Russia and other states" need to back ordinary
Syrians. However, Morsy said he opposed foreign military action in Syria
"in any form."