Egypt's President Morsi backs independent, sovereign Palestinian state

Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi put Palestine first in his speech about Egypt’s view of world affairs at the UN General Assembly in New York today: “I call for immediate movement, serious movement, as of now, to put an end to colonization and occupation activities and the denial of self-determination and the alteration of the identity of occupied Jerusalem. I call for a peace that would establish an independent Palestinian state, a sovereign Palestinian state, a peace that will achieve the security and stability long sught by the peoples of the region”.

Is it significant that he called for peace before the establishment of the independent + sovereign Palestinian state? Probably, yes… That would be consistent with the approach Egypt has taken since 1979, which Morsi did not repudiate before the UN General Assembly today.

Morsi said in his speech on Wednesday that “from the premise of defending truth, dignity and freedom, I place the international community before its responsibility which requires the achievement of a just and comprehensive peace, and the putting an and to all forms of occupation of Arab lands…”

He pledged Egypt’s full support for any step the Palestinians planned to take in the UN.

And, he urged other UN members to join him in supporting the Palestinian move: “I call upon you all, just as you supported the Arab revolutions, to lend your support to the Palestinians in their endeavor to regain full independent rights, and to support a people to gain its freedom and establish its independent state, an independent state of Palestine, based on the inalienable rights of the Palestinians”.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is running for re-election in about six weeks’ time, was one of the opening speakers at the opening session of the UN General Assembly’s high-level General Debate. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad spoke this morning. And Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is due to speak to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, apparently to modify the stalled “UN bid” he made with great fanfare a year ago, asking for full membership in the UN for the State of Palestine, which Israel opposed and the U.S. said it would veto.

Morsi said Egypt “will continue to work next to the Palestinian people, supporting them, until they get all their rights, until there is a free world for all the Palestinians and every constituent of the Palestinian people”.

He said “it is shameful that the free world accepts, regardless of justifications provided, that a member of the international community continues to deny the rights of a nation that has been longing for decades for independence”.

On the current tensions regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and the media-hyped debate about whether or when Israel will attack Iran to eliminate any possible nuclear threat, Morsi told the UN General Assembly that “The will of the people, especially in our region, no longer tolerates the continued non-accession of any country to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the non-application of the safeguards regime to their nuclear facilities, especially if this is coupled with irresponsible policies or arbitrary threats”. But, in an apparent reference to President Obama’s remarks about doing what was necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Morsi also said that “The acceptance by the international community of the principle of pre-emptiveness or the attempt to legitimize it is in itself a serious matter, and must be firmly confronted to avoid the prevalence of the law of the jungle”. This part of Morsi’s speech was reported in Businessweek, here.

The BBC’s Barbara Plett sent out a Tweet noting that Morsi said a propos of Iran that all countries have a right to peaceful nuclear program so long as they honor their obligations [under the NPT] and remove any doubts about their intentions [as the IAEA and the UN Security Council have said Iran must do. [@BBCBarbaraPlett #Morsi to #Iran: all countries have right to peaceful nuclear energy if they honor obligations & remove doubts of their intentions]

Also reporting from the UN in NY, Colum Lynch [FP + Washington Post] just tweeted [@columlynch]: “I was surprised to see the US had relatively low representation at Morsi speech. Ambassador Rosemary Di Carlo, the number 2 at US mission”.

Morsi’s backing of Palestinian moves at the UN and of a Palestinian state do not comply with current American policy.

It is worth noting, however, that a US spokesperson earlier explained that the American delegation would not attend Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN General Assembly because it fell on Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

UPDATE: Jordan’s King Abdullah II also addressed the UNGA today in New York, saying that: “We are extremely concerned by threats to Jerusalem and the sanctity of its Muslim and Christian holy sites. The Al Aqsa Mosque and Compound — Al Haram Al Sharif of East Jerusalem — is under Hashemite custodianship, a special role recognised by the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty, and protected as occupied territory by international law. It is Islam’s third holiest site and its importance to 1.7 billion Muslims, one quarter of the world’s population, is similar to the importance of the Kaaba itself. Let me be absolutely clear, any invasion or division of the site of Al Masjid Al Aqsa would be viewed, not only as a breach of Israel’s obligations, but as profound religious transgression. The international community must send a clear message that such a transgression — or any attempt to erase the Arab, Muslim, or Christian identity of Jerusalem — will not be tolerated”. This is published by the Jordan Times here.

[Wonder who was present from the U.S. delegation???]

Unlike Egypt’s President, Jordan’s King Abdullah did not back the Palestinian planned move at the UN this year, saying instead that :There may be a rare window of opportunity, later this year, after the US elections, to achieve what both sides so urgently need: two states, at peace, Palestine and Israel — both secure, both free to look forward — on the basis of a just, comprehensive and final settlement…[T]he Arab world is seeking peace, real peace. Diplomatic relations. Economic relations. Trade. Investment. A new normality, in peace, where people are safe in their homes… where communities are able to build… and where cooperation helps the entire region prosper. All this has been on offer since 2002 — over 10 years — under the Arab Peace Initiative… through which 57 Arab and Muslim countries have reached out, collectively, to Israel. It is time for Israel to turn around, look to the future we share, and make a just and lasting peace with the Palestinians”.

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