Finally, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, shook the hand of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at their meeting on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly proceedings, marking the purported "re-launch" of negotiations, stated the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi in its leader. But the Palestinian delegation will again resort to disinformation and doublespeak to somehow prove that it is still determined not to enter into talks with the Israeli government until a settlements freeze is enforced.
It was rather odd that the US president, Barack Obama, avoided bringing up the issue of halting the settlements, but the Palestinian president did just the same, which indicates that there may have been an arrangement to brush the matter aside. Also, we have not yet seen Mr Abbas's reaction to Mr Obama's invitation to kick off Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as of next week, while the Palestinian sole precondition - a complete settlements freeze in the West Bank and Jerusalem - has not been met.
Doubtless, Mr Netanyahu has won this first round; he has succeeded in imposing his own terms on Americans and Palestinians alike, and it would not be surprising if he bolsters this victory by "normalising handshakes" with other Arab leaders as the General Assembly's meetings proceed. Afghanistan is an Arab concern too "We Arabs have been passively watching the developments in Afghanistan, content with our conviction that the situation there is America's plight alone," commented Tariq al Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the London-based daily Asharq al Awsat. "We have long thought that our relationship with Afghanistan boils down to a handful of bad memories, which is not true."
In fact, Arabs have a more serious stake in Afghanistan's stability than the Americans themselves. Reports show that funds funneled into the country come from the Arab region, weapons are secured by Iran while directions are dispatched from Pakistan. "More important yet, most of the fighters there are Arabs from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia and Sudan, among other Arab states. These fighters are basically time bombs that will sooner or later detonate right next to us."
Arabs have the power to stop money flows into the country, the religious authority to enlighten the younger generations there and the necessary understanding - which the West lacks - of how to deal the Afghans. "Afghanistan is a hotbed of backwardness, crime and drug trafficking and, as such, it needs stability far more than it does democracy. This is what the Americans ought to know." France wants peace in the Middle East
Since the mandate of the former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (1974-81), France has had ambitions to play a role in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wrote Randa Taqiy al Din in the opinion section of the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. "Everyone in the Middle East wishes Europe, especially France, to play that role, because it has traditionally proved to be less partial to the Israelis."
Despite the failure of other diplomats, particularly George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy is still intent to hold a fringe meeting with the Israeli premier during the current UN General Assembly's events in New York and persuade him to freeze the settlements in the West Bank. A week before his trip to the US, Mr Sarkozy told the editors of some French publications that his tough tone on Iran would allow him to speak just as toughly to Israel.
Mr Sarkozy aims to capitalise on his excellent relationship with Syria and good ties with Russia to isolate Iran and put pressure on it to abandon its nuclear ambitions with a view to mollifying the Israeli position. The chances are very slim, however, that the French president's peace efforts will yield any significant results on either the Israeli or Iranian fronts. Southern Sudan faces an uncertain future
As per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was signed in 2005 by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the Sudanese government to end the second civil war in the country, the southerners will have to have to decide in two years' time whether to re-unite with the central government in Khartoum or opt for separation, noted the Emirati daily Akhbar al Arab. But since the signing of the CPA and after many rounds of talks, the people of the South have grown sceptical of the government's commitment to settling the issue through a decisive referendum.
They believe that Khartoum has not shown proof of transparency in a number of sticking points, above all the central government's oil revenues. Another source of tension between the two governments are their ideological convictions. The South is bent towards secularism, as 70 per cent of the population is non-monotheistic, while the North describes itself as "Islamic". This distrust between the two parties is likely to push the South to tread the path of separation, prompting the North to take radical preventive measures, one of which may be to cancel the prospective referendum altogether.
* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi firstname.lastname@example.org