President Mohammed Morsi has used his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly to speak out on behalf of Arab and Muslim issues. Mr. Morsi also told world leaders that Egypt will respect anyone who respects Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and will be hostile to those who insult him in any way.
Addressing the issue of the Arab Spring, Morsi said that it is a wake-up call for all who think that they can put personal interests over those of the nation.
"Every Egyptian feels self-confident after the practical steps they took towards a real awakening," he told the General Assembly. "We are in the middle of establishing a modern democratic state on the basis of law and respect for human rights without neglecting our values to achieve social justice."
Regarding the Palestinian cause, the president affirmed the absolute support of his country to any Palestinian action in the UN. He called on the international community to support the Palestinians until they get their freedom and build their independent state. "The international community has to exert the effort needed in a bid to settle the Palestinian issue, which has lasted too long despite the flexibility of the dispossessed people."
Expressing his sadness regarding Israel's ongoing illegal settlement activities on Palestinian land, and international procrastination over the implementation of relevant UN resolutions, Morsi said that it is "shameful" that Israel continues to get away with it.
"I call on the international community to take its responsibilities seriously regarding a just and comprehensive peace and the end of [Israel's] occupation," he continued. "It is necessary to put an end to Israeli settlements and occupation and to stop Israel from changing the demographics in occupied Jerusalem."
Turning to the situation in Syria, Morsi said that the initiative of the quartet he suggested in Makkah two months ago is still open to any side which wants to contribute to finding a way to halt the bloodshed, which he called "a tragedy". The main aim, he stressed, is to stop the bloodshed and end the humanitarian crisis. He called for real support for the Syrian opposition to unite its members. "Our Syrian brothers are beloved by Egyptians and deserve to have a future with freedom and dignity. Our support for the Syrians will continue until they achieve their freedom by ousting the current regime which keeps killing the people day and night."
On Egypt's relations with the rest of Africa, Morsi spoke in support of Sudan. "Today, our brothers in Sudan need our support more than ever in order to move forward with stability; positive cooperation with South Sudan should be the focal point between us and the rest of Africa." African nations, he said, have to bear the real responsibility for the development process in order to achieve their own ambitions and reach the desired sustainable stage. This cannot be done if the underlying premise is "suppression and aggression."
Morsi, who was seen by observers as speaking on behalf of all Arabs, said that the Arab revolutions have changed the political and power equation in the Middle East. "The general feeling is that the Middle East will no longer accept any country which is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." The Middle East should be a nuclear free zone, he said in a clear reference to Israel's undisclosed and uninspected nuclear arsenal and Iranian nuclear ambitions. Nevertheless, he insisted that all countries, including Egypt, have the right to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Criticising the double standards applied by the world on this issue, Morsi pointed out that there can be no order in the world as long as such double standards are applied.
The Middle East, Morsi reminded the General Assembly, has a Muslim majority: "We expect others to respect our culture just as they expect us to respect theirs. We expect them to respect our religious background and not to impose inappropriate cultures on us or politicise certain issues to intervene in our affairs." While Egypt respects freedom of expression, he claimed, this does not give a green light to hate speech of the targeting of any particular culture or group of people.
In conclusion, Morsi said: "I look forward with great ambitions and see on the horizon a peace based on justice and equality between human beings. That kind of peace will not be achievable unless we recognise that all of us are equal and have much in common. We have hopes and ambitions built on rights, justice, stability and development; the exchange of interests, love and respect. All that will not be achieved unless and until we have the will to see it achieved."