Skip to comments.All Out for Middle East Peace
Posted on 03/17/2005 1:14:22 AM PST by Red Sea Swimmer
FAST-PACED diplomacy is gripping the Middle East, with peace brokers and truce makers crossing paths as the region's zones of crisis begin to interact.
Even as a critical high-level meeting of Palestinian hardline factions opened in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, moderate Arab leaders were in Damascus and Washington, and the heads of world powers closely involved in the Middle Eastern jigsaw gathered in Jerusalem for the opening of a new Holocaust museum. These contacts reflect the growing sense in the Arab realm that a hinge time has arrived, when breakthroughs to a new era of democracy lie close at hand and even the perennial conflict between Israel and the Arab states could soon be at an end.
The Arab summit, to be held next week in Algiers, will provide the most important stage yet for the various countries that have embarked on democratic reforms, or held open elections, to review their progress.
Ironies abound. The host country, Algeria, is still in the grip of a protracted civil conflict between a secular regime and Islamists. Its neighbours include Morocco, a liberalising monarchy that espouses democratic principles, and Tunisia, which last year held elaborately staged "free elections" that delivered a landslide win for the incumbent president.
Palestinian Authority delegates will be joined at the summit by those from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, all of which have held their own variants of elections in the past three months.
The key participants will be Lebanon and Syria both plunged in political turmoil by the popular protest movement that has forced Damascus to announce a full troop withdrawal from its neighbour's territory.
Against this background, the significance of this week's suddenly arranged international missions becomes clearer. Jordan's King Abdullah, himself the proponent of a limited set of democratic reforms inside his own country, was visiting the White House yesterday for talks on Iraq and on the Israel-Palestine negotiations.
And Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak made an unscheduled trip to Damascus for urgent talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as the crisis triggered in Lebanon by a high-profile political assassination entered its second month.
These two journeys seek to promote linked projects. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on an interim peace accord are expected to begin once a full ceasefire guarantee can be provided by the Palestinian factions gathered in their Cairo conference.
Jordan, which has already been at peace with Israel for a decade, will play a crucial role in supporting the new Palestine and in making the case for a pragmatic pan-Arab accord with Israel.
Mubarak, as the senior Arab leader, is aiming to persuade Assad to yield to international demands and complete a full withdrawal of his country's troops from Lebanon within the time frame stipulated by a key UN resolution. And he has also urged Assad to withdraw his covert backing for the Palestinian terrorist groups that maintain support facilities inside Syria.
The mobilisation of these US allies to promote the twin causes of Palestinian peace and Lebanese independence points to the stakes as the Middle Eastern power balance is redrawn.
With a new Iraqi government due to be sworn in today, and the new Palestine taking a clearly defined shape even before Israeli forces begin their July withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the region's character has already been drastically changed.
For many of the Arab countries involved in this week's contacts, the democratic reform movement triggered by the new year's elections challenges the very legitimacy of their regimes.
The mere presence in Algiers next week of democratically elected politicians will alter the character of Arab summitry.
Until now, most of the key moves in support of the fledgling democratic currents within the Arab world have come from outside.
The following days will provide Arab heads of government with their first chance to embrace the new trend and to endorse the direction being followed by newly elected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
European leaders and UN envoys have also been active, attempting to persuade centrist Arab powers to support the new Middle Eastern model.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met early this week with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, while his key regional representative, Terje Roed-Larsen, has played a central role in arranging the first Syrian troop withdrawals.
But all Arab summiteers know that progress comes only at the pace of the slowest. Even as the Palestinian factions began their talks last night, the early signs were bleak: the Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement, which swept local polls last month in Gaza, announced in Beirut that it would not join a new Palestinian government or take part in any formal ceasefire with Israel.
The universe is stable, ordered, benevolent and expansive. The minds of many people at this time are unstable, chaotic, malevolent and contractionary. They will soon wake up...
As a wise man once said..."It doesn't matter what anyone thinks we will all know the truth and what is correct in the end."
Time is up !
Thank God for George W. Bush! And good riddance to Yassir Arafat. I don't know if it'll work out or not but, as I see it, God has given the region a rare convergence of events and people in leadership positions.
Friday night thread resurrection BTTT (2nd attempt)