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Abul Gheit to Asharq Al-Awsat: Arabs Must Not Wait for Foreign Savior

Abul Gheit to Asharq Al-Awsat: Arabs Must Not Wait for Foreign Savior

Saturday, 13 October, 2018 - 07:15
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit. (Reuters)
Barcelona - Michel Abou Najm
When Asharq Al-Awsat sat with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit on the sidelines of the Third Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Regional Forum held in Barcelona, he refused to delve directly into hot topics occupying the Arab world. He instead preferred to discuss the strategic changes shaking the world as he witnessed them play out during the United Nations General Assembly that was held in September.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Assembly was the world’s arena for maintaining global peace and security. It also is the best place to detect the changes happening in the world and predict their impact on issues that concern the Arab scene.

He spoke of the changes taking place in the United States with Donald Trump’s arrival to the White House, the upcoming conflicts with China as an emerging power and Russia’s ambitions to return to the global scene.

On the Middle East, he said regional powers, namely Iran and Turkey, were vying to once again regain control of areas that they view as “traditionally” theirs.

The Arabs, warned Abul Gheit, must be wary of the challenges and resolve their problems by themselves without banking on a “foreign savior”.

On Syria, he noted that Arab leaders are beginning to realize the need to play an influential role in the crisis.

So far, such a role is being played outside the realm of the Arab League, he said, without ruling out the possibility that the organization could take up such a role in the future.

He added that the General Assembly witnessed meetings between Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian, Emirati and Bahraini officials over Syria.

On Libya, the New York meetings revealed that UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame spoke of the need to impose sanctions and deal firmly with armed groups, said Abul Gheit.

These groups are blamed for abusing Libya’s oil wealth, which is in turn prolonging the war, he added.

“This is a great tragedy because Libya’s oil and revenues are being used to destroy the country,” he lamented.

Moreover, he said officials are growing increasingly convinced that it would be impossible to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya in December, as proposed by the UN and rival factions.

Turning to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Abul Gheit said “grave concern” was expressed over the halt of negotiations between the two sides.

This file has, unfortunately, become the least of the international community’s concerns, he remarked.

He did, however, point out that a number of European countries, such as Spain and Ireland, were seriously considering recognizing Palestine as a state.

Asked by Asharq Al-Awsat if Europe will make a collective effort to recognize the state of Palestine, he replied that no such initiative was being proposed.

“Not yet,” he said.

On whether the Palestinians were wrong in boycotting the Trump administration, Abul Gheit said the administration violated international law and the “American values that we had read so much about.”

“It violated international law when it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he charged. “Washington must go back on this decision otherwise negotiations will be impossible.”

In addition, it took a “very unjust” decision against the Palestinians when it chose to stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The administration left the Palestinian leadership with no opportunity with which to even maintain contacts with it, said Abul Gheit.

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