Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

'The Middle East needs a vision for the future', Oman's foreign minister tells Davos

The only way to solve the region's crises is to stop blaming the past, Yusuf bin Alawi told world leaders

Oman's Yousuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, addresses a panel session during the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. EPA
Oman's Yousuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, addresses a panel session during the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. EPA

Oman’s veteran foreign minister urged the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday to help the Middle East craft a vision for the future and present it to “the people in the street”, or continue to face crisis after crisis in the region.

In what was at times a lighthearted and deeply emotional discussion about the current state of geopolitics in the region, Yusuf bin Alawi offered a striking take on how to move forward.

Speaking amid tensions between the US and Iran, conflict in Syria and a lack of progress towards peace between Palestinians and Israelis, he said the parties involved in these crises "are not minded to resolve them but to manage them”.

“Should we continue on this path or ask ourselves what we want the Middle East to look like in 50 or 60 years?” Mr bin Alawi said.

“We don’t want to always look at the past and blame the past, we need to look to the future but we don’t know [what it should look like]."

He also rebuked Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, saying that what is happening in “Syria, Iraq and beyond” is not the right way to do things.

“We don’t have enough will or co-operation … everyone has a different agenda … I am still pessimistic [on resolving conflict in the region]," said Mr Cavusoglu.

Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Al Razzaz responded to the Omani official's call to inspire hope for the future by saying that his country is “moving in the right direction".

"Ultimately, the economy and the politics of the region are connected," he said.

Sultan Qaboos, who ruled Oman for nearly half a century, passed away at age 79 earlier this month. His successor is Sultan Haitham.

Jane Harman, director, president and chief executive of the Wilson Centre, a Washington think tank, said during the discussion that “Oman lost a great leader … and everyone here offers their condolences”.

She responded to a question about the consequences of the US air strike earlier this month that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad by saying “we have gone from cold war to hot proxy war” in the region.

Our goal should be “to defeat ISIS across the region” and the tactics should match the strategy, she said.

Updated: January 22, 2020 03:48 PM

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