x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Why did Syria postpone Arab League visit?

Arabic newspapers comment also on the GCC meeting to discuss the membership of Jordan and Morocco, on the timing of the Palestinian bid for statehood and on the role Arabs can play to make Somalia's dream a reality.

Deferral of Al Arabi's visit was expected

"Why did Syria postpone the Arab League secretary general's visit that was due last Wednesday and what was the context of his message to Damascus?" Asked the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari Al Watan daily.

Many are the reasons behind the rescheduling of Mr Nabil Elarabi's visit, not least of which is that the Syrian command welcomes him only as the chief of the Arab body, but not as the bearer of an Arab initiative to settle the Syrian crisis.

This in itself is sufficient to deprive the visit of its purpose in advance. Elarabi was bringing to the table a comprehensive Arab initiative that proposes pluralistic presidential elections in 2014, when president Al Assad's term ends. It calls for parliamentary elections by the end of this year and the announcement of a clear declaration of principles by the president for his reform plans.

"It is clear from the particulars of the initiative that Damascus would view it as an explicit interference in its affairs, which justifies the deferral," the writer said. "But, the real motive behind Syria's disregard to the league's request is the sudden announcement by Moscow it would soon be hosting a visit by president Al Assad's political adviser, Mrs Bouthaina Shaaban, as well as a delegation from the Syrian opposition."

Such a development implies that Russia might attempt mediation between the government and the opposition.

The GCC courting Jordan and Morocco

After months of silence, the secretary general of the GCC announced a meeting for foreign ministers on Sunday in the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

The pan-Arab publication Al Quds Al Arabi commented on the subject in its editorial saying: "A few months ago, at the height of Arab uprisings, the Saudi king suggested that Jordan and Morocco join the GCC, which was interpreted as an intention to turn the council into a club for Arab monarchies."

At the time, the proposal was met with much bewilderment from the invitees and from the member states themselves. It is understandable that Jordan, which shares borders with the Saudi kingdom, would receive such an invitation. But, what is puzzling is that Morocco, which lies thousands of kilometres away from the nearest Gulf country, would be invited too.

The Jordanians welcomed the idea; a membership at the GCC, where more than a third of the world's oil reserves sit, would mean a major economic leap. The Moroccans however weren't as enthusiastic. In fact, many of them objected to it insisting that Morocco belongs to its geographical surroundings.

"Clearly, the sectarian polarisation in the Arab region and in the Arab Gulf in particular has played a role in this attempt to expand the council with two additional Sunni monarchies to counterbalance the frightening rise of Shiite Iran."

Palestine's problem is once again the timing

While the Palestinians eagerly await the submission of the statehood bid at the UN on September 20, they are met by unprecedented Arab disregard, both on the official and the popular levels, opined Daoud Al Sharyan, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

"The fact is the long-awaited state, the epicentre of the Arab struggle for six decades, is no longer their biggest concern," he said. "Timing has always been the Palestinians' hitch. At present, Arabs are anxious to protect their own states against division and occupation, not to mention that the so-called 'rejectionalists' among them have lost their compass and are fighting their own citizens."

Nonetheless, there is some hope for the Palestinians dreaming of their small state, as the US rejection of the project isn't final. But, the problem that would arise then would be that an international recognition of Palestine would politically lead to recognition of the right of return.

The right of return is the essence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It gained additional focus with the revolutions across the Arab region. Jordan is no longer the only option for an alternative country for the Palestinians. Syria and Lebanon are options now along with other Arab states.

What is certain at this point is that the Palestinians refugees will not be returning to the state-to-be. They will become citizens in other Arab states-to-be, he added.

Arab help can make Somalia dream reality

The editorial of the Emirati Al Bayan daily commented on the roadmap that Somali leaders finally agreed upon, which would put and end to a series of fragile transitional governments that failed in bringing peace to a country drowning in chaos.

"The dream of a unified Somalia is now a reality, but it is a reality essentially tied to the effective implementation of the agreement."

The situation in Somalia has been tragic for some time, but it escalated to a disastrous scale with the rise of terrorist movements that went on to become a threat for peace not only in that country, but in the world. It was compounded by a ravaging famine that continues to claim thousands of lives.

The Somali people, left to face death by terrorism or death by famine, are suffering from division and dispersion as they seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

"While the world flocks to the famine-stricken country to serve self-interests and purposes, we Arabs must realise that Somalia is an Arab and an Islamic issue. Some powerful Arab countries could assist in the implementation of the recommendations of the national reconciliation conference without need to rely on outside interference."


* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem