by Ines Bel Aiba
by Ines Bel Aiba
CAIRO, Feb 7, 2013 (AFP)
Leaders of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation states gathered Thursday for the second and final day of a summit dominated by the Syrian conflict that has divided the Muslim world along sectarian lines.
The closed-door meeting of leaders of 26 of the OIC’s 57 states got under way mid-morning, officials said, with a final press conference expected when the meeting wraps up in the evening.
Among matters being debated is a resolution on Syria, which according to a draft seen by AFP will call for “serious dialogue” between the Syrian opposition and government officials “not directly involved in oppression”.
The leader of the Syrian opposition’s main umbrella group, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, has expressed willingness to negotiate with Syria’s vice president Faruq al-Sharaa, who has kept a low profile in the nearly 23-month conflict.
Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in an address to the summit Wednesday urged Syria’s fractious opposition to unite, while warning President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to “draw lessons from history” and listen to its people’s demands.
He also warned against inter-Muslim “sectarian strife” that could, “God prevent, achieve what the enemies of the (Muslim) nation have failed to achieve.”
The Syrian conflict, in which majority Sunni-led rebels are trying to oust the minority Alawite-dominated regime of Assad, has further hardened longstanding sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.
Shiite Iran is the main backer of Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt strongly back the rebels.
Morsi urged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop backing the Syrian regime, in a meeting Wednesday that included Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
Morsi’s spokesman Yassir Ali said that Ahmadinejad, the first Iranian leader to visit Egypt since the 1979 Islamic revolution, was told that Shiite Iran’s “interests in the Arab world are tied to supporting the Syrian people”.
In an interview with Egyptian state television late on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad said he wanted the Syrian opposition and regime to negotiate “a solution to the crisis, through mutual understanding.”