x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Conflicts in Yemen need Arab mediation

A daily round-up of news, comment and opinion from publications in the region.

Mohammed Karroub, in a comment peace for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai, wrote about the role that the Arab League secretary-general, Amr Moussa, along with leaders of other Arab countries, could play in Yemen. The press release issued by Saba, the Yemeni official news agency, following the meeting of Moussa with the Yemnei president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, mentioned nothing about a plan or efforts to contain the unrest in the country. Oddly, it said that the talks held between the two leaders dwelt on current Arab issues, primarily the latest developments concerning the Palestinian cause, and the situation in Iraq and Somalia.

"The two men seemed to have had the luxury of time to discuss crises erupting elsewhere, but they have no intention of addressing incidents in northern Saada and tensions rising in the South. When it came to Yemen, the agency's statement mentioned only the importance of maintaining the country's unity and stability."  By this, Yemen showed a reluctance to accept Arab mediation, hence leaving wide open the possibility of bringing the issue to an international level. The press release explained also that Moussa's visit came only out of courtesy. "Yet, Arab initiatives to contain the Yemen's crisis need to be allowed in order to establish grounds for dialogue between different forces in the country and to spare it from disaster.

In a comment piece for the UAE newspaper Al Bayan, Ahmad Amrabi commented on the Juba conference for opposition parties held last week at the initiative of Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) based in the south of Sudan, which brought together many senior leaders of political parties from the North.

"The conference was reminiscent of the democratic opposition's national rallies of the mid-1990s, which had started disintegrating in 2000. Thus, the meeting was an occasion for mutual deception, where northern parties came to compensate for their weakness by seeking the support of the SPLM. The latter also saw the conference as an opportunity to provoke its partner in government, the National Congress Party."

The delegates recommended the creation of an independent truth and reconciliation commission to inquire into violations of human rights since independence. "One can easily see through this recommendation that it is driven by feelings of revenge by southerners."  Yet one should not ignore the fact that the war was a human, economic and political disaster for both people, either in the South or in the North. "So it is important now to stop asking questions about who instigated the war first."

The visit of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia to Damascus is an important step that will cement bilateral reconciliation, benefiting  Lebanon, wrote Randa Taqi al Dine in an opinion piece for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. This leads to great hope that Lebanon's prime minister-designate, Saad al Hariri, will succeed this week in forming his cabinet.

The visit of the Saudi monarch to Damascus is likely to ease tensions between Syria's allies in Lebanon, representing the opposition, and the majority who won the last legislative election. Once the macro-political scene is settled, the new government should shift attention to more urgent local issues that touch the lives of every Lebanese, such as the environment. "There is a need to save the beautiful scenery of Lebanon because it is under strain. Urban areas are crowded with new buildings under construction, but without any green spaces breaking up the urban blocks."

Another environmental issue concerns maritime life. "Out of neglect, the Mediterranean waters along the Lebanese coastline have been turned into a huge trash bin. The issue of the environment should top the agenda of the new cabinet. That is why it is very important to carefully choose a minster in charge of the environment who can turn Lebanon to an environmental protection workshop."

"After the Egyptian minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, lost the contest to become Unesco secretary-general, a sea of comments has flowed considering the outcome as a disaster and a global conspiracy. The whole issue remains, however, a race for one position at the international level, no more, no less," wrote Abdul Arrahman Arrashed in an opinion article for the London-based daily Al Sharq al Awsat.

Shortly afterward, the US president Barack Obama lost the bid for hosting the 2016 Olympic games to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. "Though armed with media and public relations power to boost his hometown's candidacy, he returned empty-handed. In contrast with Egyptians, he exhibited good sportsmanship in defeat. He did not consider his loss as a conspiracy, nor did he blame anybody." The failure of Mr Hosni to win his post should, by no means, be seen as belittling the position of Egypt whose value as a nation is above a temporary position. By the same token, the value of the Unesco position has been too magnified. Moreover, the organisation itself cannot be compared in importance with the International Atomic Energy Agency which is under the administration of an Egyptian.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae