x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Chagrin and confusion in Sudan

Editorials and columns in Arabic-language newspapers comment on the lessons learned in the division of Sudan, and on the decision by the Palestinian Authority to seek UN recognition, Syrian dissidents inside and outside the country, and Amr Moussa's decline in the Egyptian polls

Sudan: lessons from the process of division

"I presume that Sudanese Arabs have regretted the secession of the South, which will enter into force on July 9," observed Jaafar Mohammed Ahmed in a commentary for the UAE newspaper Emarat al Youm.

Probably the first who would feel sorry about the split is the Sudanese president Omar al Bashir. He paid a rare visit to the city of Juba just five days before the referendum last January. He pledged to respect the outcome. At the same time, he said that he would be sad if southerners chose to split from Sudan.

At the Naivasha Agreement of 2005, southerners led by the People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) never expected the future division. The SPLM leader, the late John Garang, used to promote the concept of the new united Sudan, despite long years of civil war.

Mr al Bashir hoped Southerners would vote for what he termed an attractive unity, and invited different parties to consolidate it. So it is not surprising that he recently resolved to threaten the South with a new war on grounds of the SPLM's violation of the Abyei Peace Protocol.

The oil issue sits atop the agenda, hindering the process of disengagement between North and South. Oil is likely to open the door for a new war, especially after a series of threats to southerners by Mr al Bashir to close pipelines and export outlets.


Palestinian Authority is right in its decision

The Palestinian Authority's decision to go to the UN to request full membership for the state of Palestine next September is the right choice, the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan said in its editorial.

In light of the chaotic peace process, negotiations have lost credibility, while successive Israeli governments have always failed to honour their commitments. Meanwhile, Israel's extreme right is growing stronger.

In the meantime the Palestinian leadership needs to mobilise international public opinion in favour of its intention to declare a Palestinian state at the next UN General Assembly.

The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, is determined in his pursuit this time, saying "This is a must should the negotiations fail." It was a clear signal that should be taken seriously by Israel and all parties concerned with the peace process in the Middle East.

"But what is not understood is the PA's continuous reliance on the International Quartet, the EU and the US in acting as the main sponsors of the peace process, although they have achieved only little to this effect. This raises questions about whether they should continue to play this role in the future."

From past experiences, to bet on the US role would be a wrong choice. This is because closely linked American-Israeli interests come first.


Syria needs dissidents placed everywhere

It wasn't all that unexpected to see differences of opinion emerge within the Syrian opposition, especially between on-the-scene opponents of the regime and their expatriate counterparts, the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi newspaper editorialised.

Opposition leaders and independent public personalities were authorised to hold a meeting in Damascus this week to come up with a reform proposal, and it became clear that their ceiling of expectations was lower than that of Syrian dissidents based in western countries.

This is quite natural. Those opposing Bashar al Assad's regime from within are putting their own safety and that of their loved ones on the line. The risk they are running is real. They know full well that they are dealing with a regime that knows how to get back at its opponents.

Some of the dissidents attending the meeting, like Michel Kilo and Akram al Banni, have been jailed before and were tortured by the same regime they are speaking out against today.

"This kind of meeting is unprecedented, though." And all Syrians, wherever they may be, must be involved in the movement for change. "The opposition overseas complements the domestic opposition; it actually represents its natural growth."

Any fissures between the two would just serve the purposes of the Syrian establishment.


E-poll: Egyptians turn away from Moussa

"Amr Moussa made a mistake when he attacked the Egyptian foreign ministry for leaking a document bearing his signature in his capacity as a foreign minister," remarked Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Qatari daily Al Watan. "The document approved a memorandum to export gas to Israel."

The leaked document has undoubtedly affected Mr Moussa's popularity and reduced his chance to win the votes of Egyptians in the upcoming presidential election.

Mr Moussa also made a mistake when he imperfectly defended himself in a public statement. He said that his approval of the gas exports to Israel, in 1993, was in support of the Arab position at the time of signing of the Madrid Accord. It was intended, he claimed, to assure Israel that it would obtain many advantages in the peace process.

He said the deal was a political tactic required at the time.

But one thing should be explained, the columnist said: "Why was the gas sold cheaply? Why did Moussa accept that?"

Mr Moussa could also have avoided public embarrassment by not criticising a Facebook poll which ranked him fifth on the list of the front runners in the presidential elections.


* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi