x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Islamic leaders back Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi plan for Syria talks

A final statement after a two-day summit of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has backed an initiative by Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to broker negotiations to stop the bloodshed.

A Free Syrian Army fighter stands in front of a burning building hit by a mortar shell fired by Syrian Army soldiers in the Zamalka neighbourhood of Damascus.
A Free Syrian Army fighter stands in front of a burning building hit by a mortar shell fired by Syrian Army soldiers in the Zamalka neighbourhood of Damascus.

CAIRO // Leaders of Islamic nations yesterday called for a "serious dialogue" between Syria's government and an opposition coalition on a political transition to put an end to nearly two years of civil war.

A final statement after a two-day summit of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation backed an initiative by Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to broker negotiations to stop the bloodshed in which at least 60,000 people have died.

"We all agreed on the necessity to intensify work to put an end to the tragedies which the sisterly Syrian people are living through," Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi told the closing ceremony.

The statement did not call on Syria's president Bashar Al Assad to step down, but the summit exposed conflicting views among Muslim and Arab nations about the Syrian civil war. In the past, many nations at the summit, including Egypt, have demanded that the Syrian leader step aside.

Mr Morsi criticised the Syrian regime in his address to the summit, but did not directly call for the Syrian leader to leave as he had in past comments.

The summit also witnessed the first visit of an Iranian president to Egypt in more than three years, as Egypt's Islamist government aimed for warmer relations with Iran.

In a goodwill gesture, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in remarks carried by Egypt's official news agency that Iran will cancel visa requirements for Egyptian tourists and merchants.

"Lifting visas for merchants and tourists coming from Egypt to Iran, will be announced," he was quoted by Mena as saying. "Every day we will take steps forward."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Cairo reflected Egypt's attempts to strike an independent foreign policy and reassert Egypt's historic regional leadership role following the fall of Hosni Mubarak, a close US ally who shared Washington's deep suspicions of Tehran.

Meanwhile, Iran seeks warmer relations with Egypt as a way to break its international isolation and win a heavyweight ally.

* With Associated Press