Last updated: 30 August, 2012

Iranian and Egyptian leaders discuss Syria conflict and ties

Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi on Thursday discussed the Syrian conflict and their states’ severed diplomatic ties in their first-ever meeting, an official said.

“They emphasised the need to solve the Syria crisis via diplomacy and to prevent foreign intervention,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told Iran’s Arabic-language broadcaster Al-Alam.

“They also discussed ways to boost the level of Tehran-Cairo relations,” he said.

The meeting took place in Tehran on the sidelines of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at which Egypt handed over the organisation’s rotating presidency to Iran.

Morsi’s attendance was the first time a head of state from Egypt had set foot in Iran since the two countries broke off diplomatic ties in the wake of Tehran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Ahmadinejad issued a statement afterwards saying he and Morsi had agreed each other’s country was a “strategic partner” in the region, but there was no word about restoring diplomatic relations.

On Syria, Ahmadinejad said the killing should stop and elections be organised, and that “NATO and the oppressive countries” should be prevented from intervening in Syria.

Morsi was quoted in the statement as saying the “problems” in Syria could only be resolved “with the help of influential countries in the region like Iran.”

Earlier on Thursday, in a speech to the NAM summit, the new Egyptian president denounced the “oppressive regime” in Damascus, which he said had lost all legitimacy.

That comment prompted the Syrian delegation at the summit to walk out, and embarrassed Iran which fully supports Damascus.

Iran has been reaching out to Morsi since June when he became Egypt’s first civilian president.

Morsi hails from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and says he is seeking broader relationships in the Middle East, including with Tehran. But he has so far reacted with caution to Iran’s overtures.

Iranian media reported that Morsi left Tehran shortly after the meeting. His office had said before the summit that his stay would last a few hours, only long enough to hand over the NAM presidency.

State media reported supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as rejecting “all foreign intervention in Syria,” and saying “the only way to solve the Syrian question is to stop sending weapons to irresponsible groups” in the country.

Tehran accuses certain Western states plus Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of supplying the Syrian rebels with arms.