x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Trip to Tehran could improve relations

The UAE's foreign minister's talks in Iran hold the promise of better understanding across the Gulf, an editorial says. Other topics: Jordan in the GCC, and trouble in Libya.

UAE foreign minister's visit to Tehran could open the way to real dialogue across the Gulf

The London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi noted in its editorial that on Wednesday the foreign minister of the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, made an unscheduled visit to Tehran and met his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi.

The visit came at a time of high tension in relations between the Iranian government and the GCC states, the paper noted.

These tensions are heightened as a result of the Islamic republic's support for the Syrian regime, and as a consequence to the Gulf states' alignment with the US campaign to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"The US is exerting intensified pressure on the GCC states to crank up the siege on Iran and halt all kinds of commercial interactions with it. However, some Gulf countries are trying to get exemptions or exceptions, especially the UAE in view of the large-scale trade connection it has with its Iranian neighbour," said the paper.

On their part, the Tehran authorities threatened to avenge any commitment by Iran's Gulf neighbours to besiege it or to aid the US in a potential attack on its nuclear plants. These threats of retaliation are not to be taken lightly as they may translate into an Iranian attack on a water desalination station, oil installations or infrastructure projects.

"Arab states must engage in dialogue with Iran, just as the US and European countries are doing, to reach understandings that could eventually lead to a settlement, or at least a mitigation of the conflicts. Hostility towards a neighbouring country on the grounds of American instigation is wrong," the paper added.

From their side, the Iranian authorities must let go of their threatening tone and maintain good and reassuring neighbourly relations with the Gulf states, because they fear for their security and stability others.

The Gulf countries could benefit from such opportunities for dialogue to try to find a solution for the present Syrian crisis in a way that stops the bloodshed and guards the country against a sectarian civil war that could expand to the entire region.

"Why should Arab countries encourage the Palestinians to negotiate with the Israelis, when they don't adopt the same course of action with Iran [themselves]?" asked the paper.

Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, had paid a similar visit to Tehran and met with officials to discuss a settlement for the Syrian situation, but his efforts were in vain.

However, the paper said, this does not mean that efforts and communications should cease, especially since the Iranian president did voice his support for the Syrian people's quest for democratic change.

"The UAE foreign minister's visit to Tehran is a good step at the right time. We hope that it will set the stage for a fruitful Arab-Iranian dialogue," Al Quds Al Arabi concluded.

What delays Jordan's entry into the GCC?

What has become of the prospect of Jordan's membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council, columnist Mazen Hammad asked in the Qatari daily Al Watan.

The issue has been feeding the hopes of the kingdom's people and government, but the GCC states seem to have left it hanging, the writer said.

Since the GCC welcomed Jordan's application to join last May, the small kingdom has set in motion a political reform drive that has proved taxing to its treasury.

"The Jordanian state budget relies largely on aid and loans from the Gulf states, the US and Europe. But, it finds itself in an economic bind after it committed to a thorny course of action and pledged to increase spending on certain sectors," said the writer.

In its efforts to fulfil the requirements for GCC membership, Jordan created several internal problems that have been stirring strife in recent months. Meanwhile, although the door to membership in the elite club has not been finally closed, it hasn't been opened wide, either.

Some politicians blame the GCC delay on widespread corruption, although the Jordanian government has been dealing firmly with the issue and has referred a number of former high officials for prosecution.

"In any case, it must be said that Jordan feels that it would gain in strength by joining the GCC, which stands also to benefit from the kingdom's deep and varied skills," the writer said.

New round of fighting now looms over Libya

When Libyans rose up against Muammar Qaddafi's rule, they could not have imagined that their revolution would end in another type of centralisation, from which some of their tribes are excluded, the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan said editorially.

This is a centralisation opens the door to the threat of division and civil war in Libya.

The head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, had warned against a possible federal or confederate segmentation as a result of the "rebels' biased support for the tribes".

"The tribes of east Libya didn't heed the call and determined on March 6 as a day to declare Burga a federal province. This followed the announcement of an NTC study for a "post-Qaddafi Libya plan" that aims to divide the country into five administrative provinces.

"These are all schemes to control the resources in these various areas, especially oil," the paper added.

"The concern is that the NTC isn't capable of controlling the internal situation, especially that it doesn't have the support of all tribes.

"The situation is bordering on internal fighting, which, this time around, would be more complicated, with resources and fortunes at stake."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem