x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Refusal to apologise strains Turkey-Israel ties

Turkey's Recep Erdogan is still insisting on an apology from Irael over last year's botched attack on a Gaza flotilla; good for him, says an Arabic-language editorialist. Other topics in today's excerpts: the role of ambassadors in Syria, a lesson from Sudan, and the fight against Palestinian corruption.

Turkey demands apology from Israel

Intensive talks between Turkish and Israeli officials aimed at improving relations between the two countries have failed, noted the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

The countries have been at odds since Israeli commandos stormed the Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla Marmara last year, killing nine activists on board. In response, the Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan demanded a formal apology. He reiterated this demand last Thursday, saying that it is not possible to normalise relations without an apology for the deadly raid.

Mr Erdogan is concerned more with repairing the damage to Turkey's sovereign integrity than receiving financial compensation for victims.

Apparently, Israel will maintain its stance, empowered this time by news that a UN report on the issue will be released by the end of this month. The UN has used the formal investigations conducted by Israel and Turkey to reach its judgement. Yet Israel has revealed the content of its own account to misinform public opinion and indirectly exert pressure on the Turkish government to drop its demands.

Israel also sought the support of turkey's historical enemies, namely Armenia, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria in order to strengthen its position. Yet, Mr Erdogan is right in his demand; otherwise, he could lose the support of his people and his image among Muslims worldwide.

Ambassadors force Syrian restraint

"It is ridiculous to think that the US and French ambassadors moved from Damascus to Hama ... without prior knowledge of Syrian authorities," pointed out Tareq Alhomayed, the editor-in-chief of the Pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat, in a leader article.

For a week, the Syrian regime had been stationing security forces around the city in preparation for Friday protests. Meanwhile, the world was watching and warning that if Syrian troops enter en masse, a humanitarian disaster might occur. For this reason, western ambassadors rushed to prevent a potential massacre.

"It is surprising that Syrian authorities vehemently criticised the ambassadors of the US and France by saying that the former met in Hama with saboteurs and incited them to protest and undertake violent operations, as well as reject dialogue."

The ministry of interior was surprised by the arrival of the US ambassador to Hama in violation of diplomatic norms.

Despite the roadblocks and security checkpoints, one wonders how the western diplomats reached the city from Damascus without being noticed by the ministry of interior. Syria is a police state, and it is unlikely that Syrian authorities failed to know about the visits in advance.


Sudan division harsh lesson for Arab League

"Saturday could be one of the worst days in the history of the Arab League, as it has to take a positive attitude regarding the division of one of its member states," noted the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.

Nabil Al Arabi, in his first foreign visit as secretary general of the Arab League, would have wished for an easier assignment.

"In light of the latest development across the Arab region … the Arab League is required to formulate a new strategy based on initiatives and not on reactions. These should explore scenarios and consider future challenges as well as put plans of how to deal with them. Most importantly, the League should meet the expectations of Arabs and be a part of the decision-making process."

South Sudan's separation, although an internal affair, is one of the lessons that we should learn from. It is an event that has showed the dwindling role of the League and that of the Arab countries in general in Africa. It also revealed a lack of effective coordination among Arabs to suggest other solutions than the ultimate secession.

"At any rate, we hope the newly established state of South Sudan builds good relations with its northern twin … as well as with the Arab world in general. We hope also that the international delegations, who flocked to Juba to attend the official announcement of the new state, take the same stance and recognise the state of Palestine."

Fighting corruption should include Gaza

"It seems that the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission has become more assertive than in the past," pointed out the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds in its leader article.

Rumours about corruption cases, if not addressed properly by investigations, tend to spiral out of proportion. This will not serve the national cause.

So the demands this week by the head of the inquiry commission, Rafik Natsheh, to lift the political immunity of a number of ministers is welcome and timely.

"Investigation does not, however, mean indictment. And those concerned are not necessarily corrupt. They remain innocent until proven guilty."

Demanding that the PA president Mahmoud Abbas remove the immunity was the right decision. To investigate cases involving officials as senior as ministers is a big achievement in Palestinian politics. "We hope Abbas responds immediately to this demand … we also hope that inquiries include corruption cases that have been the focus of people's talk recently."

It is a great move towards creating an environment that is likely to help promote a real Palestinian democracy. By the same token, we hope to see the Commision expanding the scope of its interest to Gaza and call for similar investigations there.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi