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Egypt would “work to reach a consensus over an immediate halt to the killing and violence; the preservation of Syrian unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity; [and] the rejection of foreign military intervention in Syria,” the statement said.

Regional powers in general are willing to share the stage with Mr. Morsi in recognition that without a bold Arab initiative, the Syrian issue will remain unresolved, said Khalil Al-Anani, a Middle East specialist at England’s Durham University.

“The question is: Who should lead this? Will Egypt pay the price if this initiative fails?” Mr. Al-Anani said. “It’s a very risky game, and it might fire back against Morsi if he can’t succeed in achieving real results.”

The problem is that Iran wants its longtime ally Mr. Assad to remain in power while Turkey and Saudi Arabia insist he needs to go. “So far, this plan or initiative to resolve the Syrian issue is still on paper,” Mr. Al-Anani said.

Allies near and far

In late August, Mr. Morsi visited China to bolster Egypt’s diplomatic and economic ties with the Asian powerhouse. Some analysts view the move as a way for Egypt to distance itself from the U.S., its longtime ally that has provided billions of dollars in aid annually.

Even so, Mr. Morsi wants to maintain ties with its Mubarak-era allies, analysts say, but rebalance those relationships, which many Egyptians say lean too strongly toward the West.

Morsi is trying to say, ‘Look, we are alive, we are friends, but there has to be a distance and we have to keep our dignity,’” said Said Sadek, a political sociologist and affiliate professor at the American University in Cairo.

Partnerships with powers such as China would help Egypt create a fairer and more equal relationship with the U.S., said Said Shehata, a London-based analyst who specializes in Islamist movements. “And Egypt will be taken more seriously,” Mr. Shehata said.

By attending the summit of Non-Aligned Movement nations in Tehran on Aug. 30, Mr. Morsi became the first Egyptian president to set foot in Iran since its revolution in 1979, the same year Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel. Still, he gave a speech denouncing Syria’s president — a poke at Iran.

One reason the visit to Iran was important was “to show that now we are willing to be open to everyone, even Iran,” said Ms. Zakaria, suggesting that Mr. Morsi isn’t ruling out any alliances.

Mr. Morsi didn’t make the trip to have bilateral talks, however, and analysts don’t foresee Egypt establishing ties with Iran anytime soon. But he will need to play his cards right if his diplomatic efforts are to benefit Egypt, analysts say.

Morsi has the best of both worlds: the Islamic world — the Muslim Brotherhood — on one hand supporting him, and on the other $1.3 billion [in annual military aid alone] from the U.S.,” said Mr. Javedanfar. “If he can balance both, he can serve Egypt’s interests as a new player in the Middle East.

“But if he tries to pander too much to fundamentalists and the Muslim Brotherhood, then that could backfire,” he said. “It could also backfire if he is seen as too close to Israel.”