x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Red Sea needs legal protection

In its editorial, Al Riyadh newspaper highlighted the rising fears that the Red Sea can become an area of international influence.

In its editorial, Al Riyadh newspaper highlighted the rising fears that the Red Sea can become an area of international influence.

"This is because many countries have fragile regimes and suffer from intense internal conflicts, which would stimulate external powers, such as Israel, to interfere, and also encourage countries with naval bases in the area to consolidate their presence."

The Red Sea's strategic position may also suffer from continuing Somali piracy of commercial ships as well as from frequent threats by Iran to obstruct navigation in Hormuz Strait.

Worse, as the international campaign is mounting against piracy, which has drawn an international presence in the region, it is possible that such efforts might take an organised international character for the purpose of ensuring navigation security. This might cause Arab countries of the region to fall under a security siege, and some states like Somalia, which is also open to the Indian Ocean, to become a dumping site for nuclear waste and for illegal fishing fleets.  

"We know at the present time that the responsibility for guarding the sea is beyond the capacity of any one country, but because of the threats that the Red Sea faces, it is necessary to draft a United Nations convention to protect it from any source of conflict."


Salma bring new tack to Sahara conflict 

"The issue of the dissident Mustafa Salma does not end upon the announcement of his release, nor will it cease to attract attention even in the event that Mr Salma appears in public," wrote Mohamed al Achab in a commentary in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. "At question is not a person who chose to return to the Tindouf refugee camp to see his family. Underneath is the thorny question of the Sahara dispute.

"What remains of the conflict is the Tindouf camps that house refugees. Their situation differs from the experience of their counterparts elsewhere. While the basic drive for taking refuge in a place is to ward off danger, this is not the case with the population in Tindouf because all have every right to come back to the mother country." Mr Salma just highlighted this contradiction. Dissidents from the Polisario never went back. Salma, however, chose both to support the autonomous ruling plan suggested by Morocco, but also to return to the camps.

He could have remained in Mauritania, or stayed with his father in Morocco, but Salma wanted to draw the world's attention to what was going on in the camps. His decision, which  prompted the Polisario to arrest him and then release him, has become a precondition to resume negotiations between the parties in the Sahara conflict. Algerian-Moroccan relations might grow more tense in the future.


Sudan referendum: no guarantee for peace

"The self-determination referendum in Sudan has many aspects," noted the UAE newspaper Al Bayan in its lead article. "While some warn against an imminent split, others hope for unity to continue. Southerners, on the other hand, have been promoting their foreign policy agenda early, saying they would reinforce their diplomatic ties with various countries, including Israel." The attitude of the southerners appears to have strong support from many international parties, especially the US, which sponsors the separation project through diplomatic and media outlets. The US disregards the fact that the parties involved in the referendum are not ready yet, and that the general political atmosphere needs more time to mature.

"Among the issues that need to be settled before delving into the referendum are border demarcation, wealth distribution, mainly oil, and other procedures related to the national identity," the Sudanese government has stated. "If this does not happen, the referundum might be the beginning of a new cycle of conflict between the North and the South." A foretaste of such a scenario happened this week when pro-unity groups clashed with pro-independence groups in Khartoum. This was followed by statements by the southern leader Salva Kiir, who called on the UN to deploy troops along the border between South and North even before the referendum is held.


Arabs show a more moderate attitude

In an opinion piece for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda, Saleh al Qallab considered the outcome of extraordinary Arab summit in Sirte, Libya, as the best Arabs can get in light of the present circumstances. "The most important achievement of this summit is to give the US a month to save the direct negotiations, which were halted by Israel's continuing policies of settlement."

The participants were rational in taking this decision, as they avoided the spectre of a long liberation war that could have no end. "In fact, neither conventional, nor long popular wars are acceptable since the Arabs decided a long time ago to involve themselces in a political battle to find a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.  At the heart of this struggle is to achieve peace in accordance with a two-state solution that is backed by the international community."

For this reason, most countries, including the US, consider settlment expansion as illegal, and call for their immediate freeze. It is natural then that the Arab summit adopt the same line and "show a moderate attitude in contrast to Israeli extremism". * Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi.