x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Iraq-Kuwait row over new port must stop

Mubarak Port on Kuwait's Boubyan Island should not become a wedge between Iraq and Kuwait, an Arabic-language editorial says. Other editorials comment on Tunisia's future, a Palestinian state and Turkey's ties to Israel.

"As a Kuwaiti citizen, I call on my government to stop, with immediate effect, the construction of the Mubarak Port on Kuwait's Boubiyan Island, so long as we haven't succeeded in convincing the Iraqi side that the port would benefit both countries and bolster future commercial ties between them," wrote columnist Saad al Ajami in the Emirati Al Ittihad newspaper.

Iraq is said to have been developing blueprints for a new shipping centre on the Faw peninsula, near the oil-hub of Basra, as part of a multi-billion dollar venture to turn the country into an economic link between the Middle East and Europe.

But Kuwait began construction in May of its own massive industrial port, Mubarak the Great, about one mile away from the site proposed by Iraq, with the same vision. Tensions between the two countries ensued.

The Iraqis are now saying the Kuwaiti port will "stifle" Iraq and bog down its maritime traffic, the writer said. Never mind that Iraqi politicians are using this quarrel to "preoccupy the Iraqi street with the 'threat' coming from the Kuwaiti port" and distract the public from their government's failure to provide basic public services, he went on.

"If Kuwait seriously aims to boost collaboration with Iraq through this port, and Iraq does not see it that way, why go on building it?" the writer asked.

Fits and starts in Tunisia are inevitable

"If you go on a visit to Tunisia these days, you will see that a big change has taken place there, not just in the people's morale, but also in political life," stated the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi newspaper in its editorial.

This, however, does not mean misgivings are in short supply as to what the future may be holding in store for the country, the newspaper noted.

Tunisians, political elite and laypeople, have felt a deep sense of relief after the toppling of Zine Eddine Ben Ali's regime, which was one of the most repressive in North Africa. With such a sense of relief and newfound freedom, it was predictable that the number of licenced political parties would go through the roof - 100 so far. The same goes for newspapers and other independent media outlets.

While this may be interpreted as political confusion, there are undeniable positive aspects to it.

"The increasing number of parties and newspapers is actually a healthy phenomenon in a country that has been so thirsty for democracy," the paper said.

When the smoke finally clears, the abundance of political parties will spontaneously shrink to a reasonable number. For now, rehabilitating the economy is the priority after a poor season of tourism revenue.

Six months after the revolution, political hiccups are a given, but only a circumstantial one.

Palestine seeks edge from Europe at UN

As far as the Palestinian-Israeli peace process is concerned, the ball is slowly bouncing away from Washington's unyielding court (which favours Israel) to a bit more nuanced European court (willing to listen to the Palestinians), according to an editorial in the West Bank-based Al Quds newspaper.

As the Palestinian Authority is setting the stage for a possible bid for UN recognition of statehood based on the 1967 borders, Washington is using its aid package to dissuade the PA from making the move in the next UN in September.

With the US's "Don't!" stance being clear, both Palestinians and Israelis have moved their rhetorical struggle to the European stage, the newspaper said.

The Israelis want to garner European voices that may be opposed to the recognition of a Palestinian state. The Palestinians want to use Europe's diplomatic weight in their favour.

"Palestinians will not be able to win over all of Europe, that much is certain. There are European states that are expressly opposed to Palestinian statehood … But there are others that have made up their mind to stand by the Palestinian move," the newspaper noted.

While this UN recognition will not change much in the status quo of the occupation, it will at least reinforce the Palestinian position in future final-status negotiations.

Turkey-Israel ties set to be normalised

It appears that mutual efforts to get Turkish-Israeli relations back on track are on their way to success after Israel's presumed consent to Ankara's terms for re-normalisation, commented Mazen Hammad, a columnist with the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

The reservations expressed by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, about the word "apology" - the word which, the writer notes, is the "backbone" to any possible denouement between the two countries - may not go anywhere this time around.

On several occasions, senior Turkish officials have stressed that their country will not contemplate normalising relations with Israel if the latter did not "apologise" for the killing of nine pro-Palestinian Turks who were aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship last year.

Ibrahim Kalin, a top aide to the Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said his country is looking to fully normalise relations with Israel, revive military collaboration and the exchange of diplomatic missions.

As for Arabs, they must not be sceptical about rapprochement between Ankara and Tel Aviv, the writer said. Turkey has proved to be an exceptional mediator in the region.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi