NEW YORK — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi made his debut at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, with a speech calling for action in Syria, the Palestinian territories and Sudan.
Morsi opened his speech by declaring, "I am the first Egyptian civilian president elected democratically, freely, following a great, peaceful revolution." He said that Egypt was a state that sought justice, truth, freedom, and dignity.
After praising the popular uprising in Egypt that led to his predecessor President Hosni Mubarak's ouster, and similar movements across the Middle East, Morsi focused his attention on the Palestinian cause, stating that despite struggling through legitimate channels for decades, the Palestinian people had failed to achieve their hopes and dreams.
He said, "I call for immediate movement, serious movement to put an end to occupation and settlement of occupied Jerusalem."
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Morsi then turned his focus to the bloodshed and human tragedy in Syria. "The bloodshed must be stopped immediately," he said. "The Syrian people, dear to our hearts, and the heart of every Egyptian, deserve to hope for a future of freedom and dignity."
While making it clear that he would not support foreign intervention, Morsi clearly came down on the side of regime change in Syria, saying, "After this regime comes to an end, the Syrian people will choose with their own free will the regime that represents them." He called upon the UN to encourage the Syrian opposition to unify its vision for the future of the country.
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Morsi also brought up Sudan and South Sudan in his speech, saying, "Sudan has not received the support it deserves." He encouraged the UN to work toward raising living standards in Africa and focusing on the plight of women and youth, suggesting a UN body that would be solely dedicated to issues affecting young people.
Near the end of his speech, Morsi issued a fiery condemnation of the "vicious campaign" against what "Muslims hold sacred," referring to the anti-Islam film that sparked protests in Egypt and across the Middle East and North Africa. He said insulting the Prophet Muhammad was "unacceptable."
While clarifying that Egypt respected freedom of expression, Morsi said his country could not support expression that was used to incite hatred, to deepen intolerance or to target a specific religion. His words echoed the speech he gave at the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday, where Morsi said freedom of expression must come with "responsibility," according to the Associated Press.
Analysts said Morsi's speech would be closely watched for clues to his plans for Egypt and his foreign policy stance.
Watch the entire speech here: