x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The enthusiasm that the US secretary of state has for the peace talks is impossible to square with real events, writes a columnist for Al Khaleej. Plus, why Sudan's leader is the greatest threat to that country's unity.

Nothing justifies the optimism over Palestinian and Israeli peace talks, and yet they continue

“No one can explain the secret behind the optimism of US secretary of state John Kerry for yet another round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; an optimism that he expressed during his most recent meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian teams of negotiators, led by Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat, respectively,” wrote Mohammed Idris, a contributor in a column in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej yesterday.

In concrete terms, Mr Kerry said nothing that justifies any excitement. All he said during that meeting was that both sides have agreed to intensify peace talks and that US involvement will increase, the writer said.

He vaguely mentioned that Israel ought to suspend its settlement expansion policy and reiterated his dreamy expectation that a peace agreement will bring security and prosperity to the region, while the contrary will only have dire consequences.

“Kerry’s declarations are so hollow and devoid of any substance,” the author added. One should simply accept the fact that the US administration has nothing to offer the Palestinians.

The speech delivered by President Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly last week has made that clear. “The speech was an irrefutable piece of evidence that true peace – one that is based on justice and aligned with previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian cause – is not a priority on the Obama administration’s agenda,” Idris wrote.

In his entire speech, Mr Obama focused on two main issues: the Syrian crisis, with a mention of the wider context of the Arab Spring, and the future of relations with Iran.

“The only section that touched on the Middle East peace process did not include any mention of the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause,” the author said. “Instead, it talked on and on about Israel, and about the security of Israel, just as Israelis like to hear it. He spoke about his administration’s commitment to the pursuit of peace between the Arabs and the Israelis, noting that his country will never bargain with the peace of Israel.”

In light of this flagrant American bias, what could one expect from Mr Kerry’s supposed push for peace in the Middle East? Are the right conditions there to give this effort a chance.

For one, Washington has been extremely busy with the Syrian crisis and is now eyeing prospects of a breakthrough in its long standoff with the Iranians. For their part, the Palestinians have resumed negotiations with the Israelis while fully aware that they were backing down on a precondition that they repeated loud and clear: no talks without Israeli guarantees that settlement activities will stop.

Well, settlement activities have actually intensified since the talks resumed, the author went on, so is this whole masquerade really worth anybody’s time?

Omar Al Bashir’s tyrannical and uncompromising rule risks Sudan’s hopes for peace and security

The president of Sudan Omar Al Bashir isn’t oblivious to the fact that he is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. Nonetheless, and despite repeated US calls urging him to turn himself in, he filed a request for a US visa to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations which opened last week in New York, observed Abdullah Iskandar, the managing editor of the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

“The visa request sums up Al Bashir’s behaviour and mindset: a policy of provocation and undermining of others,” he said. “This is precisely what he has been practicing against the Sudanese people and its political powers since he seized power in June 1989.”

During 24 years of rule, through sheer tyranny and force, Al Bashir was able to wield absolute control over central government.

It took extraordinary international pressure, mainly from the US, and direct threats jeopardising his regime, before he committed to a peace agreement with South Sudan, ultimately leading to its separation.

But other pressing issues in the country remain pending. In Kasla in the east, Darfur in the west and in the centre, the situation is unchanged due to the regime’s obstinate rejection of any proposed solutions that require Al Bashir and his ruling party to offer political concessions.

Naturally, as a consequence, violence, killings, displacement and poverty have become staples of Sudan’s reality.

In the last week, angry protests broke out in Khartoum over fuel price hikes after the government scrapped fuel subsidies. Protests soon turned to violence as the regime attempted to quell them and a campaign of arrests was ordered to silence the challengers. It soon escalated to shooting, killing dozens of protesters.

“These protests that attract peaceful youth movements represent a serious and unprecedented challenge to Al Bashir’s regime. The situation has turned into a direct confrontation with an unarmed population defending its livelihood. These are not the political, armed or separatist movements that Al Bashir has had to deal with throughout his term,” the writer noted.

The autocrat has found himself confronted with a new generation that wants more from government. However, old habits are hard to break and the regime has resorted to its customary violent and oppressive response.

“The situation in Sudan is at its most serious. Al Bashir’s regime has abolished all safety valves in the country as he wore out all of its conventional political parties. Al Bashir’s rule has become the main threat to what remains of Sudan’s unity and any hopes for a return to normal political life,” the writer concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk