8 February 2013, 12:22

Cairo Islamic Conference to back 'peaceful evolution' in Syria - expert

Cairo Islamic Conference to back 'peaceful evolution' in Syria - expert
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Mustafa Kamel Al Sayyid, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, shares his prognosis for the major Islamic Conference, which kicked off in Egypt's Cairo on Tuesday.

Do you expect any breakthrough decisions from this conference?

I doubt it very much because on all these issues there are important differences among the participating countries. On the situation in Syria there are important differences between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Iran on the other. As far as Somalia, Burma, Afghanistan and also the occupied territories, I think there will be just general statements of support for the people in these countries, in the case of Burma support for Muslims there and a call on the Burmese Government to stop acts of discrimination against the Muslims there.

As far as the situation in the occupied Arab territories is concerned, I think there will be perhaps statements of support to Palestinian people and calls on Israel to recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians people and their right of self-determination including the right to have an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem. So, I think there will be just general statements of support. And on the Syrian situation I think perhaps there will be a call for a peaceful evolution of the situation and rejection of the foreign intervention.

Now there are a lot of discussions about Mr. Ahmadinejad coming over to Cairo.

We should note that he is coming to Cairo as one of I think 26 heads of states and governments. He is not coming to Cairo as part of the state visit, he is coming attend an international conference. The same thing also happened when the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi went to Tehran. He went there also to attend a similar international gathering of the heads of states of Muslim countries. And unlike the Turkish President Abdullah Gül who will stay in Cairo for a state visit after the conference, Mahmud Ahmajinejad will leave for Tehran.

So, his visit in fact acquires more of symbolic importance. But I doubt very much that there would be any immediate practical implications of this visit. Of course this is very important because this is the first time an Iranian head of state after the revolution comes to Cairo. The last time an Iranian head of state came to Cairo was immediately after the revolution, the Shah of Iran.

So, this is symbolically important but the meeting between him and the Egyptian President did not take more than 20 minutes immediately after the arrival of Mahmud Ahmadinejad to Cairo and it took place at the airport. I did not see any Egyptian newspapers, any reports about the further bilateral meetings between the Iranian President and the Egyptian one.

Moreover, the visit also has been marked by protests by Sheikh of al-Azhar, a very important religious authority, and the Salafist leaders who criticize the Iranian President for persecution of Sunnis in Iran, for Iranian intervention in the affairs of Arab countries, such as Bahrain, and the Iranian Government’s support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. So, under these conditions it is very difficult to expect a breakthrough in Iranian-Egyptian relations apart from this symbolic importance of the visit.

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