x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

US-Russian detente: Moscow, do the maths

The recent statements concerning Russia made by Gen Andres Fogh Rasmussen, Nato's new secretary general, augur extremely serious developments, wrote Saad Mehio in the Emirati daily Al Khaleej.

The recent statements concerning Russia made by Gen Andres Fogh Rasmussen, Nato's new secretary general, augur extremely serious developments, wrote Saad Mehio in the Emirati daily Al Khaleej. Mr Rasmussen called on Nato to open "a forum of serious dialogue" with Russia, heed its "legitimate security concerns" and invite it into a strategic partnership to take action against terrorism and piracy and problems in Afghanistan.

And now that the US President Barack Obama has cancelled the missile shield project in eastern Europe, the situation is most conducive for a new US-Russian accord, one that breaks away from the usual "cold truce" , especially since their ideological polarity has ceased to be a black-and-white conflict between capitalism and communism. But one cannot overstate that this budding alliance between the US and Russia, if consummated, would dramatically tip the strategic equilibrium in Eurasia and the world.

This alliance threatens to dismantle the Bric front (Brazil, Russia, India and China), shelve the 2001 Russia-China friendship and co-operation treaty, one of whose main principles is to counter US hegemony, and controversially equip Nato with Russian teeth deep into Asia. The ball now sits at the Russian bear's feet, and he has to study all the possible moves well before he decides to kick.

Last week's visit by the Syrian president Bashar al Assad to Turkey marks the genesis of a new political and economic Ankara-Damascus-Tehran coalition that is capable of changing the face of the region, noted the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi in its main leader. These new signs of rapprochement come after the two countries had few discussions in the last century, particularly after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Improvement of diplomatic ties between Turkey and its southern neighbour started when Damascus expelled from its territories Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), considered persona non grata by the Turkish central government. As for the Turks, having realised that their stake in the European Union is likely to be lost as some EU members are set to ban Islamic influence from setting foot in the European Christian club, they are now capitalising on ties with Syria to reach into the Arab world and gain regional prominence, aware that the password to the region has always been "Palestine". That is what prompted Turkey's closeness to Hamas and its outspoken disapproval of Israeli policies against Palestinians during the last war on Gaza. The Turks are coming back strong into the region, cashing in on the absence of a pan-Arab project.

Thirty years after sealing the Peace Agreement with Israel, the Egyptians have not made up their minds yet about the issue of normalisation with the Hebrew state, opined Mohammed Saleh in the London-based daily Al Hayat.

This latent debate has been recently revived after the editor-in-chief of the Egyptian magazine Democracy, Hala Mustapha, received the Israeli ambassador in her office, which is located at the headquarters of its celebrated sister newspaper Al Ahram. While Ms Mustapha has been known to make her political views unequivocal, other journalists are often in limbo trying to distinguish the fine lines between normalisation and professionalism.

The Egyptian journalists syndicate, for its part, refuses any form of normalisation with Israel until a Palestinian state is established. Some Egyptian journalists casually attend and cover activities of the Israeli ambassador in Cairo without being questioned to the extent that they manage to publish their reports in more than one renowned newspaper. But ironically , the Egyptian government itself feels free to normalise relations with Israel on the grounds of "diplomatic relations", while it uses this highly touchy issue as a pressure card against government opponents when they undertake "normalising behaviour".

No one has formally announced the demise of the Oslo Accords yet (otherwise known as the Declaration of Principles on the Interim Self-Government Arrangements, signed by Israel and Palestinian Authority in 1993), commented Bilal al Hassan in the opinion pages of the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat. "The Oslo Accords have been killed in the White House and nobody has even deigned to post an obituary in their memory," he said.

Since the beginning of the "Oslo illusions," the late president Yasser Arafat had to confront, in strenuous negotiations, all sorts of proposals regarding the division of Gaza until he obtained the right to interim self-government of over 90 per cent of the land. When Mahmoud Abbas came to power in 2005, he strongly believed that the "terrorism" of the second Intifada was the main cause of the crash of the Oslo Accords and that thwarting that "terror" and going back to negotiations were the only ways towards the establishment of the independent state of Palestine.

The Oslo fiasco must have taught us a very clear and useful lesson by now: Israel does not want a Palestinian state, only a "presence" that controls people not the land. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae