Egyptian lawmaker Hazem Farouk Mansour slammed Iran for providing arms and economic aid to the embattled Assad regime, which has been brutally cracking down on civilian opposition despite agreeing to a UN truce plan.
Mansour, the head of the Foreign Policy Committee of the parliamentary bloc, told Today's Zaman on Tuesday in Ankara, “If Iran did not support this regime, the Syrian people could have turned a new page, and the chaotic situation would not have lasted this long.” “Iran is clearly not siding with the Syrian people but rather precluding their desire to open a new page in their history,” he added.
Mansour, a ranking member in the Muslim Brotherhood, called on Iran to take its hands off of Syria.
Stressing that Turkey and Egypt see eye-to-eye on most foreign policy issues, including Syria, the Egyptian lawmaker said both countries have strategic relationships. “Being the two most populous countries in the Middle East, representing some 160 million people, Turkey and Egypt can be a strong anchor for peace and stability in the region,” Mansour remarked.
The Egyptian politician ruled out external military interference in Syria, saying that experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the Western-led military interventions created more problems in these countries than they solved. He suggested, however, that a group of Muslim and Arab countries, including Turkey, may have no choice but to intervene provided that there is some sort of legitimacy for such an action, possibly under the mandate of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“What we want is world pressure on [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad to cede power,” Mansour noted, asking for increased pressure on countries supporting this regime like Iran. “We do not want Syria to break up along ethnic or sectarian lines,” he said, warning however that there is a possibility for such a conclusion if the crisis is not contained. Pointing out that Egypt and Syria complement each other from a historical point of view, the Egyptian lawmaker stated that the Muslim and Arab world was in much better condition when Damascus and Cairo were united in a common front in the past.
Commenting on Turkey's role in the Middle East, the Egyptian lawmaker said he welcomes Turkish involvement in the region. “If Turkey contributes to the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, it can lead the change,” he said, recalling that President Abdullah Gül, who arrived in Cairo in March 2011 as the first head of state to visit Egypt after the revolution, delivered the same message to the Egyptian people.
He said elements from the old regime as well as outside actors have been trying to prevent Egypt from pursuing a peaceful transition to a new era. “The Egyptian people have no major disagreements among themselves. They just want to rule the country on their own. Parliamentary elections were peaceful and constituted a model for others. We are now writing a new constitution with the support of the Egyptian people,” he explained.
Mansour represents Shubra, one of Cairo's densest districts, which has a sizable Christian Coptic minority as well. He picked up support from Christians in elections as well, campaigning openly in rallies where he told the people that he had been educated by a Coptic teacher when he was a kid. He said the commission working on the constitution also includes Christians. In March 2011, 76 percent of Egyptians voted yes in a referendum that changed a number of articles of the constitution and set a timeline for elections as well as for drafting a new constitution.
Commenting on the 2004 natural gas deal with Israel, the Egyptian politician said the terms of the agreement were not in favor of the Egyptian people, and that the old regime had signed the agreement under a shroud of secrecy. “The price of the gas was one-seventh of what world market prices were,” he lamented, adding that with the fall of the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian people had learned about the sweetheart deal. In fact, one of the charges in the indictment against Mubarak is that he sold Egypt's gas as part of a deal involving kickbacks to family members, associates and Israeli officials.
“Because Israel has not paid the bill for the delivery of the gas for the last one-and-a-half years, we have cancelled the agreement using the existing rights in the deal,” Mansour said. The agreement gives Egypt the right to annul the agreement if Israel fails to pay the bill for a long time. Egyptian gas provides 40 percent of Israel's supply, which was used to generate electricity. As for the other agreements with Israel, the Egyptian lawmaker said Cairo will stick to international obligations, noting that Egypt wants to live in peace in the Middle East.