x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Gulf citizens must be heard at the GCC

The value of people's ambitions in this region cannot be undermined, especially that the achievements in gains or rights vary from one Gulf country to another.

Numerous are the limitations that Gulf countries are still imposing on their citizens, especially in matters that pertain to citizens' participation in parallel conferences to the GCC summits in order to present issues that respond to their ambitions, wrote columnist Reem Khalifa in an opinion article for the Bahraini daily Al Wasat.

The value of people's ambitions in this region cannot be undermined, especially that the achievements in gains or rights vary from one Gulf country to another. "We as Bahrainis, for instance, cannot compare our situation to that of other Gulf states, such as Qatar or the UAE, especially in matters of salaries, housing and employment."

Such matters are a way to keep abreast of the many changes occurring within the communities of the six GCC member states. That is in addition to joint support projects such as the GCC railway system, which is one of the most important transportation projects awaiting a real decision. Even a unified Gulf currency and joint market are schemes that only a few of the council's members agreed to and still await activation.

The concept of a conference in parallel with a summit has become a fact all over the world and is practiced during UN conferences. Change is not limited to tall buildings and grand economic projects. Change also calls for popular representation.


Arab world must face division of Sudan

After the Egyptian foreign minister's statement that the division of Sudan is inevitable, columnist Daoud al Sharyan, in an article for the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, wrote: "Egypt would be the biggest loser in this project."

Egypt has proposed alternative solutions for the Sudanese issue, suggesting the establishment of a confederation between North and South. Although it sought to postpone the referendum, Cairo handled the issue just as it handled the Nile water distribution issue: it wagered on time and hope. Nevertheless, the Sudanese issue threatens Egypt's stability and interests.

As for the rest of the Arab states, their response to the Sudanese predicament was similar to their attitude towards the Iraqi issue. They believed in the slogan of noninterference in a state's internal affairs and were content with observing while foreign states and organisations took control.

The current state of affairs in Sudan augers a repetition of the Iraqi affair. The UN controls every aspect of the issue in the absence of an Egyptian or Arab role on the ground.

"Sudan will undoubtedly be the Arab world's new issue. Its separation will give birth to two African states with alarming characteristics." Southern Sudan threatens to fall prey to sectarian conflicts that could rage on for years, while northern Sudan would emerge with only a quarter of the country's natural resources.


Another great political setback for Egypt

Another great setback for Arabs occurred once again in Egypt. Its outcome could be far worse that the setback of June 1967, observed columnist Satea Noureddin in the Lebanese daily Assafir.

The events that took place in two phases in Egypt last week cannot be qualified as elections. They were closer to parliamentary appointments of 508 candidates, leaving only a myriad of decorative dolls distributed on the seats of the large hall in Cairo, which was intended to be a channel for reform and peaceful change.

The Egyptian republic has never before witnessed the likes of this electoral scandal that wiped out all traces of internal variety that allowed for some margin of political and media liberties.

It is unknown whether President Hosni Mubarak himself ordered the scrapping of these liberties, "or was it the decision of the National Democratic Party's teenagers surrounding his son Jamal, who felt the moment was ripe to pounce on opponents." It could also have been a test for the army's power.

Such a major step backwards for Egypt suggests that the ruling institutions are preparing to impose the transfer of power by inheritance as a fait accompli.

Egypt's fast-track journey into the Middle Ages has started and its echo in other Arab capitals will be thunderous. Inheritance of power will become destiny. Change will be nothing but a distant dream.


The Abu Dhabi GCC summit is a success

The present GCC summit in Abu Dhabi will be different for all the peoples of the region, more than any previous summit, even before the agenda of Gulf leaders is revealed or the closing statement published, observed Tareq Homayed, editor-in-chief of the London-based daily Asharq al Awsat.

As the world enters a new post-WikiLeaks era, the peoples of the Gulf and their neighbours are confident now more than ever that Gulf leaders are in agreement as to the Iranian threat, and more specifically, Iran's nuclear projects.

The US documents leaked by WikiLeaks indeed revealed that the Gulf states' opinion of the Iranian nuclear threat is serious, contrary to some diplomatic statements that don't say much about it.

The GCC, with its unity and solidarity, remains one of the most important Arab forces in the region. Its current summit in Abu Dhabi is a message of reassurance to the region and a reminder to Iran that the GCC will not tolerate any attempts on its security and interests. The proof to this can be found in the WikiLeaks documents that reveal the convergence of views among GCC members in relation to the Iranian nuclear threat.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem