x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Arab newspapers address the Western Sahara dispute and Palestinians

Editorial in Arab newspapers address GCC economic prospects in Asean countries and the Arab role in the Libyan conflict

Western Sahara amid regional developments

"The upcoming UN security council resolution on the Western Sahara issue will most likely extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (Minurso) and renew its support of direct negotiations," commented Mohammed al Ashab in an opinion piece for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. "But the historical context this time is different."

It is unlikely that the Sahara issue will have the same momentum because Muammar Qaddafi, who continues to support the Polisario Front, is under an international siege. Similarly, northern African countries have started to review their politics according to the evolution triggered by uprisings.

By the force of ongoing events, the parties concerned have no reason to invoke the axioms of the old conflict. They may engage more positively in negotiations. Algiers and Rabat, for instance, may forsake their wrangling and focus on the more important challenges of consolidating democracy and establishing modern political systems.

It equally relevant to ponder the next decision of the Security Council over the Sahara dispute in light of the preceding resolution that has imposed an embargo on Libya. Although there is a big difference in terms of circumstances and content, both decisions may have a similar legally-binding character.

A golden opportunity for the Palestinians

Israel is in a state of arrogant obstinacy, observed Mazen Hammad, a columnist with the Qatari Al Watan daily. It is purposely escalating its offensive on Gaza although it realises the necessity of changing its strategy towards Palestinians and its neighbouring countries. This is in light of the Arab uprisings that are reshaping the face of the region.

Israel surprisingly carries on with its condescending ways unaware of the changing times. But the greater surprise come from the Palestinians. Present circumstances are forcing them to revolt, not only against their own decaying leadership but also against Israel itself.

Millions of Palestinians living in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are all capable of taking to the streets to call for an end to the occupation and to mutiny against both Palestinian governments that are perpetuating the internal dissent.

"We realise that the Palestinians are drained after decades of resistance against a war machine, but we also realise that this is a crucial moment in time that gives the Palestinians a historic opportunity to join the ranks of the freedom seekers."

Occupation must be an additional motive for the people of the West Bank and Gaza to intensify their protests. History doesn't forgive the hesitant, nor does it wait for the frightened.

GCC can expand its economy to the East

In a commentary for the UAE newspaper Emarat Alyoum, the columnist Najeeb al Shamsi called for economic initiatives from the GCC countries in Asean states.

If Gulf countries boost relations with these states, they can develop great opportunities for mutual benefit. Both can complement their assets and resources. Asean countries have water resources, knowledge-based economies, and diversified sources of income. These span a wide scope of activities: agriculture, industry, tourism and high-tech.

"For our part, we can offer energy, including of the renewable sort. We can also provide funds that can be invested in agricultural sectors to consolidate economic, cultural and social bonds. This will be reflected in creating ample job opportunities for great segments of the Asean population."

Gulf investments can be done through agricultural land development so that we can increase productivity and ensure our food security. Investments can also help to set up factories to process the food surplus and export it home.

It is only through a well-studied plan between public and private sectors that such cooperation programmes can be implemented. This will ensure a secure partnership through bilateral conferences that bring together officials, experts and investors from both regional blocs.

Arabs have a role to play in Libya crisis

The situation in Libya is still indecisive, and this may continue, as Nato said that fighting would persist between rebels and the regime, noted the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial.

"The conflict is devastating to Libya because it is claiming lives and destroying public and private property. And since the regime has chosen to fight at any price, and the rebels cannot win in battle, many parties have entered the fray in an effort to forge a suitable solution to save Libya and its people.

For instance, Turkey and Indonesia proposed an initiative for a ceasefire, while the African Union sent a delegation to Tripoli to negotiate a way out. Yet these efforts cannot be a substitute for Arab action, which should focus on three elements: a ceasefire, preserving territorial integrity and devising a solution that satisfies all Libyans.

The ongoing events are less likely to settle down as long as the regime remains unchanged. Moreover, since its military power outweighs that of the rebels, the hope for it to withdraw from political life is slim.

The Libyan people have only their Arab brothers who can agree on a less costly solution where there is no place for the present regime.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi