Syria on Sunday called Egypt’s decision to cut diplomatic ties “irresponsible,” accusing its president of joining a US-Israeli conspiracy to divide the Middle East.
The official government statement, quoted in Syrian state media, came a day after Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi told supporters in Cairo that his country was severing ties with Damascus and closing its embassy in the Syrian capital.
“The brotherly Egyptian people will foil these policies and their dangerous impacts and repercussions for the region,” the Syrian statement continued. “The Syrian and Egyptian peoples will remain the beating heart of Arabism and the maker of its victories.”
Morsi, an Islamist, made the decision amid growing calls from hardline Sunni clerics in Egypt and the region to launch a “holy war” against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Morsi also called on the international community to implement a no-fly zone over Syria, where some 93,000 people have been killed so far in the two-year war, according to the latest UN figures.
The Syrian statement said Morsi’s call was a violation of its sovereignty “and serves the goals of Israel and the United States” in the region.
Morsi announced on Saturday that Egypt was cutting all ties with Syria, and ordered the Syrian embassy in Cairo closed.
Morsi also said Cairo would begin providing Syrian opposition forces with financial aid. The Egyptian president was speaking at a conference on the Syrian uprising in Cairo on Saturday.
Support for the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah would also be withdrawn, Morsi said, marking a policy shift for Cairo, which backed the organization against Israel in the Second Lebanon War seven years ago.
“We supported Hezbollah during Lebanon war and today we stand against Hezbollah in its aggression on Syria,” said Morsi, adding that there would be no role for the current Syrian regime and the terror group in Syria’s future.
The Egyptian president called on Hezbollah to leave Syria, where the group has been fighting alongside regime forces loyal to Assad.
He said Cairo would coordinate aiding the rebels monetarily through Saudi Arabia and Turkey as well as other countries. He did not say what form the aid would take and whether it would include arms.
On Thursday, a senior official in Egypt’s presidency had said Egyptians were free to join the fight in Syria and would not be prosecuted upon their return.
In a response to an Associated Press question Thursday about the government’s stance on citizens going to fight alongside Syrian rebels, Khaled al-Qazzaz said that “the right of travel or freedom of travel is open for all Egyptians.”
He said that after the 2011 uprising, the government no longer punishes Egyptians for what they do in other countries. Al-Qazzaz, a foreign affairs adviser to Morsi, said the presidency did not consider Egyptian nationals in Syria a threat to Egypt’s security.
His comments come just days after influential Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi urged Sunnis everywhere to join the fight against Assad.
Syria’s relations with Arab nations have progressively worsened as the violence in the country spiraled out of control.
In March, the Arab League granted the Damascus seat to Assad’s opposition at the 24th summit.
The 22-member bloc suspended Syria’s seat in November 2011, following the Assad regime’s violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrators in the country.
That same month, the Syrian opposition opened its first embassy in Doha, Qatar.