x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Morsi opens a door on way to the UN

A president who uses Facebook is just one indication of a new reality: Egypt is stepping up to play its full role in the region and the world.

If there were any doubt things have changed in Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi is now using Facebook to communicate his policies. On the eve of his trip to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, he wrote: "Egyptian foreign relations are now about a balance with other nations based on mutual respect and interests. We open doors and do not close others."

The statement underscores a message Mr Morsi has been sending since assuming office on June 30: Egypt is again a significant player in the region and the world.

In the past three months, Mr Morsi has worked hard to legitimise his leadership among his Islamist supporters and among other Egyptians understandably wary of his links to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has shown himself to be a fearless champion of his nation's interests. In Tehran for the Non-Aligned Movement summit, he was bold enough to criticise the regime in Syria, a staunch Iranian ally. And he has been welcomed in China, where he secured important trade deals.

But this week's visit to the UN is not just another chance to present the "new Egypt" to the international community. It is, first and foremost, another important opportunity to cement his legitimacy and authority back home.

The UN General Assembly is a global stage, but leaders at the dais speak to their own publics first. Mr Morsi set the stage even before leaving Cairo at the weekend. In an interview with The New York Times he stressed the mutual interests of the US and Egypt, but made it clear that he will not be as compliant as his deposed predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. And he called on Washington to reconsider its policies in the Middle East, from its unyielding defence of Israel to its relentless pursuit of self-interest.

There is no doubt all of these "suggestions" won points among his constituents. Unfortunately they will, for now at least, not reach the intended audience in Washington. While Mr Morsi will sit down with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Holland during his visit, he will not speak with US President Barack Obama.

Mr Morsi may, in time, win the ear of the White House. The region would be better off if he did. A stronger Egypt that helps maintain regional stability can only be a good thing, for the US and the world.