Arab Unity? Yes on Kurds, No on Palestinians, Perhaps on Lebanon

Jordan’s King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held talks in Amman on Friday, part of a flurry of diplomatic moves to close Arab ranks ahead of a summit later this month in Qatar, officials said.

A palace statement said the talks between the two leaders focused on “efforts to crystallise a joint Arab stance to confront the common challenges facing and developments in the region.”

Conservative Arab states led by Saudi Arabia are mending ties with Syria to restore a semblance of Arab harmony before the Doha summit later this month.

This was Assad’s first visit to Jordan since 2005 and it followed the Syrian president’s meeting last week with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait.

ISRIA: President al-Assad and King Abdullah II underlined the importance of intensifying efforts in order to realize the Palestinian reconciliation in the interests of the Palestinian people.

It should be noted that the Jordanian Premier Nader al-Dahabi paid a visit to Damascus last November during which the emphasis was made on pushing the economic integration process forward and handling any administrative difficulties or obstacles facing it and activating the role of businessmen, Chambers of Commerce and Industry in a way that leads to increasing the volume of trade exchange and launching joint investment projects.

King Abdullah stressed Jordan’s support for Egypt’s efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, compelled by Palestinian and pan-Arab interests.

Mark Lynch explains why the Doha summit may fail like the summits before it: “Another Arab summit hits the skids.

The Arab Summit slated to be held in Doha on March 29-30 had been shaping up to be a pivotal moment in Arab reconciliation, bridging the sharp divisions between the ‘moderate’ and ‘resistance’ camps and consolidating rapprochements between Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the one hand and Syria and Qatar and the other. The idea seemed to be that the Arab states would arrive at Doha with a united Arab front, a Palestinian national unity government, and a renewed Arab peace initiative. But it has been running into some pretty heavy turbulence and now may have quite the opposite effect. As I’ve noted in some earlier posts, the Palestinian reconciliation part isn’t going so well….

Syria appoints first ambassador to Lebanon

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria has appointed its first ambassador to Lebanon and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman accepted his diplomatic accreditation Tuesday, according to a statement from the Lebanese presidency.

The Lebanese presidency named the diplomat as Ali Abdul Karim Ali. Lebanon last week opened its first embassy in Damascus and has named its ambassador as Michel Khoury. Syria had opened its Beirut embassy last year….

Establishment of formal relations had been a central demand of anti-Syrian Lebanese factions that won an election in 2005 following the Hariri killing and the withdrawal of Syrian troops who had first entered Lebanon in 1976.

The United States and France had led pressure on Syria to establish formal ties with Lebanon. Syria had resisted the move, citing the countries’ shared history and close ties. Syria and Lebanon were carved out of the Ottoman Empire by imperial powers France and Britain in the 20th century.

Syria has yet to meet international demands to formally demarcate its border with Lebanon.

Netanyahu, Barak draft Israel coalition pact

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu won Labor chief Ehud Barak’s agreement on Tuesday to a political partnership that could help Israel’s next government avoid friction with Washington on Middle East peace.

Under the coalition deal with Barak, an administration led by Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud would respect all of Israel’s international agreements, a Labor Party negotiator said, a formula that includes accords envisaging Palestinian statehood.

Netanyahu has shied away from declaring support for a two-state solution that is at the heart of U.S. peace efforts. Indirect acceptance of that goal might keep him off a possible collision course with President Barack Obama…..

With center-left Labor in his corner, Netanyahu would have a ruling majority of 66 seats in the 120-member parliament, a margin he could still widen before an April 3 deadline to form a government following Israel’s February 10 election…..

Monday, Netanyahu sealed a coalition deal with the Orthodox Jewish Shas party. He had already signed up the Yisrael Beitenu party led by ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman.

Syria: Al-Moallem: Syria Will Spare no Effort to Complete the Arab Reconciliation to be Comprehensive:
ISRIA

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem has said that Syria’s efforts, through presiding the Arab Summit, has not stopped one day seeking to achieve Arab solidarity in order to confront the risks facing the Arab nation, pointing out that the title of Damascus summit was the “Summit of Arab Solidarity.”

In an interview Saturday evening with al-Jazeera TV satellite channel, al-Moallem underlined that President Bashar al-Assad has led the Syrian diplomacy throughout this period to get to where we are regarding the Arab reconciliation and in preparation for a successful Arab summit in Doha to be an important opportunity onthe way of the joint Arab action.

He stressed that Syria wants the summit to be a summit of Arab reconciliation to challenge and face up to the Israeli aggression as well as a summit of a new regional security.

The foreign minister pointed out that “Syria does not change its convictions. It is a front-line country and in a state of war with Israel, and its territories are occupied, so it is natural to seek to acquire factors of strength, and at the same time it believes that peace can not be achieved by political work only, but through supporting the resistance, which is a legitimate right to all peoples.”

“Syria will spare no effort to complete the reconciliation in order to be comprehensive, and Arab differences should be managed by mature and objective scientific thinking in order to avoid rupture,” he added.

He indicated that the Arab positive atmosphere has not been completed yet, and it is at the beginning of the right road to complete the reconciliation, adding that inter-Arab differences should be managed by a mature, objective and academic thinking to avoid alienation.

On the Syrian-Saudi relations, the Foreign Minister said when Syria found that the opportunity was proper for the initiative of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia at the summit of Kuwait, it didn’t hesitate to activate it where the quartet summit in Riyadh was held, adding that the efforts will be completed to build reconciliation on firm basis of clear understanding of main goals of the Arab strategy.

The minister said the Palestinian issue is ranked the first on the Arab priorities, and Arab leaders unanimously agree on the stability and unity of Iraq’s people and lands and its Arab identity as an important part of the Arab nation.

The foreign minister said that Syria stands at an equal distance from all Palestinian resistance groups and the Palestinian Authority, encourages and calls for Palestinian national reconciliation and for those groups to be part of the Palestine Liberation Organization and to reach a Palestinian national unity government.

He added that if there is no resistance, then no body will think of something called political solution.

“Syria does not impose any decisions on the Palestinian side…. whoever accuses Syria that it influences the directions of the resistance factions can ask them about that… we adopt a positive approach towards them and we stand at one equal distance from them,” he said, hoping the inter-Palestinian dialogue would reach its sought-for results to safeguard the Palestinian people’s issue.

The foreign minister stressed that the Syrian people’s support for the steadfastness and resistance of the Palestinian people in Gaza was clear, as Syria embraced the resistance and was in continuous communication with it to strengthen its steadfastness. Syria did all of what was asked from it.

The minister pointed out to the position of the Turkish people in support of the Palestinian people, adding that Syria offered all needed facilities to Turkish assistance to reach Gaza Strip.

Regarding Lebanon, al-Moallem said that “we support the stability of Lebanon and the holding of the elections on time and in a safe and transparent way. Without the Lebanese national consensus, there would be no stability in Lebanon. There is a significant difference between the intervention and having friends standing by your side regarding your political position and vision of things… No one can cancel that.”

He saw that U.S. President Barack Obama’s statements pertaining Iran as a first step in the right direction.” We must wait to see how they will be carried out on the ground by practical steps.”

He pointed out that Iran is an Islamic state in the region neighboring the Arab countries, adding that Syria has established an excellent relationship with it based on the mutual respect.

He called on the United States to abandon all practices of the previous U.S. administration where the world, during the President George W. Bush administration, had faced many difficulties on all levels… Whoever reads the achievements of the US previous administration in eight years will find a continuous chain of wrong practices which did not bring security and stability to the world, so what any new administration must learn is that this policy was wrong and has to pursue a new policy that must be practiced on the ground.

On the Syrian-American relations and whether there are American conditions for these relations, al-Moallem pointed out that if there were conditions, then the dialogue between Syria and the United States would have faced from the beginning the same results it had already faced Former US. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s mission in 2003.

He added that the Americans have realized that Syria can not be dictated by conditions and doesn’t meet anybody’s demand ,but it looks to its interests and to the interests of the others and to where the interests meet. ANd when interests clash, then Syria would explain its point of view without abandoning its interests.

Regarding his meeting with Jeffrey Feltman, the Minister said Feltman is no longer the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon, but has become responsible for the Middle East Department and he represents a new U.S. administration’s policy. He had not come to Syria carrying demands or preconditions, but for taking the first step in the right direction in an open dialogue, adding that ” Syria wants America to separate between our bilateral relations and Syria’ points of view regarding the Middle East issues from Iraq to the Arab-Israeli conflict, combating international terrorism in addition to several issues. Syria is looking forward to normal relations with the United States.”

The foreign minister pointed out to the existence of meeting points in the interests of both countries such as security and stability of Iraq and its land and people’s unity, its independence and support of President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq, and for the establishment of the Iraqi national reconciliation and the Arab identity of Iraq.

Al-Moallem said Iraq needs its Arab brothers in this juncture stage with the start of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and it is important that there should be Arab presence and interaction with Iraq,

About the expectations with regard to the forthcoming Israeli government, al-Moallem said: “There is no difference among all Israeli governments…The government of Ehud Olmert has yielded two aggressions against Lebanon and Gaza Strip and perpetrated most heinous war crimes…It is a government described by some in the west as moderate”

He pointed out that the leaning in Israel is to the right, and Syria has no concerns in this framework as it tested all the Israeli governments which put on the mask of peace while waging wars and aggressions on the ground…..

Gul Is First Turk to Call North Iraq ‘Kurdistan,’ Hurriyet Says

(Reuters) – Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul urged the prime minister of Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdistan region on Tuesday to “take a clear position” against Kurdish separatist rebels using Iraq as a base to attack Turkey.

Gul met Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani for talks in Baghdad, the first time a Turkish leader has agreed to meet formally an official from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which has enjoyed de facto autonomy from Iraq since 1991.

Turkey accuses the KRG of not doing enough to crack down on rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which operate out of northern Iraq to launch attacks on southeastern Turkey.

“I told him (Barzani) explicitly that the PKK terrorist organisation and their camps are … in your region (and) you need to take a clear position against them,” Gul told journalists after meeting Barzani.

“Once the PKK is eliminated there are no bounds to what is possible: you are our neighbours and kinsmen.”

Gul’s trip to Iraq was the first by a Turkish head of state for 33 years. Ties have been strained between Baghdad and Ankara over the PKK but a visit to Iraq by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan last year began a significant thaw in relations.

Syria and Kurds: “The Kurds of Iraq in the first half of next month will organize a national conference in Irbil. All Kurdish political parties, maybe among them the PKK itself, will participate in this conference,” Shoresh says.

“The aim of this conference is to reach a common understanding among the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, and Syria about how they can reach their national rights in the Middle East by peaceful means,” he adds.

Military operations have regularly spilled into northern Iraq, where Ankara says some 2,000 PKK militants maintain bases. Turkey has accepted the participation of KRG representatives in the three-country commission trying to disarm the PKK.

Iraq’s President Tells PKK To Disarm Or Leave Iraq

Comments (10)


1. Akbar Palace said:

Gazing at the lovely picture of the Jordanian and Syrian “Presidents-for-Life”, a thought crossed my mind:

Sim,

Here’s your chance to further your studies in population statistical analysis. Sorry, you won’t find any Joos there except, perhaps, as tourists.

Question: What percentage of Jordan is Palestinian?

And all the time I thought they were stateless.

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March 24th, 2009, 7:09 pm

 

2. SimoHurtta said:

Sim,

Here’s your chance to further your studies in population statistical analysis. Sorry, you won’t find any Joos there except, perhaps, as tourists.

Well Akbar I know that basic mathematics is not your strong point, like also not logical thinking.

In 2005 there were 100.000 new Jewish babies born in Israel. If you take an non Maddof calculator and multiply 60 (years) with 100.000 Jewish babies you get 6 million (with a Maddof & Bernanke calculator 18 million). However it is a rather asthonishing historical achievement if a population of 1.2 million could in 1949 produce 100.000 babies. Or a population sized 2.1 million in 1960. So it is a sensible estimation that the average amount of Jewish babies born in Israel yearly is 40.000 during that 60 years’ period. That makes a sum of 2.4 million. Even the Shai’s theory that the Soviet Jews extruded an asthonishing amount of babies at once they arrived to the “promised land” makes the 3.8 million of Israeli Jews living today born in Israel rather “questionable”.

Sure it is in Israeli Jews interests to exaggerate the amount of Jews born in Israel to create a new “fact on the ground”. Why satisfy to 3.8 million? Why not say 4.5 million? I know that Israel has the tendency to create a own history and “reality”, which is not necessarily equal to the history or the reality of the rest of the world.

Question: What percentage of Jordan is Palestinian?

And all the time I thought they were stateless.

Hmmm Akbar do you know the reason why some Palestinians are stateless? I know.

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March 25th, 2009, 5:57 am

 

3. Akbar Palace said:

Hmmm Akbar do you know the reason why some Palestinians are stateless?

Sim,

Could it be because they never accepted peace plans which gave them a state? No matter, it seems to me the Palestinians already have a state. But you never hear about it.

Anyway (to answer my own question), about 55 to 70% of Jordanians are Palestinian.

http://middleeast.about.com/od/jordan/p/me071114.htm

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March 25th, 2009, 10:56 am

 

4. Akbar Palace said:

Well, now that BB has been tossed the baton, once again the cries for “peace” are being laid down at his feet like they have been for all the other preceeding Israeli Prime Ministers.

Today’s professional cry-baby, Kadima’s (once part of the “hard-line” Likud party) leader, Tzippi Livni, and her side-kick Ehud Olmert, had PLENTY of time to sign a peace treaty with the Palestinians.

Why did Kadima fail to sign a peace treaty, and what responsibility did the Palestinians play in this failure?

Do bother to find the answers in the Main Stream Media, because peace with the Palestinians seems to ONLY be an issue for the Israeli
government du jour.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090325/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians_3

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March 25th, 2009, 11:32 am

 

5. Enlightened said:

Akbar:

You should be PM of Israel and AIG should be President!

Your National Security advisor and minister of Propoganda should be Chris.

What a interesting triumvirate you three would make as Israeli leaders! I would bet that you would solve mid east peace within three months, and we would be all long lost brothers again who suddenly found themselves! (yawns)

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March 25th, 2009, 11:56 am

 

6. norman said:

Ehsani,

Your opinion, please,

Syria’s Economy Stumbling in the Right Direction
STEPHEN STARRPublished: March 25, 2009
Foreign Direct Investment has increased exponentially in Syria but still lags behind international standards; and problems aplenty remain. The photo shows Gulf Arab tourists dining at a historic home that was turned into a restaurant in Old Damascus, where development is booming to attract foreign tourists. (MCT via Newscom)DAMASCUS — With Syria now being viewed as a path through to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, foreign diplomats from states once typically hostile to Damascus have become a common sight here in recent weeks.

Coming back into the limelight has given Syria political clout, and Damascus is now looking to take advantage of positive remarks in the international media to quench its bad image. Taking advantage of these foreign visitors, the Syrian government has stressed the message that it is serious to liberalize its economic system.

Since Bashar Assad became president in 2000, the government has gradually been working to resurrect Syria’s economy following 40 years of haphazard socialist practices by announcing dozens of multi-million dollar projects.

In one of several ambitious projects, a 52-story twin tower development of offices and public space for Damascus city center is timetabled to begin in 2014 at a proposed cost of $320 million reported the Syria Report, an independent business newsletter.

Last week the Damascus Securities Exchange opened, albeit belatedly, marking “an important turning point in the Syrian economy,” according to one Syrian politician. Five of Syria’s largest companies including the Bank of Syria and Overseas, Arab Bank Syria and United Group, a media corporation, have gone public. The market will be open for trading two days a week.

Javier Solana’s recent visit to Damascus was preceded by European Commission officials who were in Syria last December to sign off on an updated version of an Association Agreement with the European Union.

One step taken to generate revenue for the government was to eliminate a subsidy on diesel which brought the state $20 million extra for 2008, and also saw it meet a key stipulation set out in World Trade Organization membership rules, an organization Syria is hoping over join in the next 12 to 18 months.

Abdullah Dardari, the deputy prime minister for economic affairs believes reform of Syria’s financial sector has been the government’s greatest achievement thus far.

“We have put great efforts into banking and insurance operations and it’s worked out well so far,” he said in an interview.

Banking institutions from Lebanon, Jordan and the Gulf, many with international banking facilities, have sprung up in urban centers across the country and with internet coverage expanding (mobile internet 3G technology has recently been made available in major cities), online banking facilities are being set in motion. Tax exemptions to encourage businesses have been passed into law and ‘Shabaab’, an initiative to promote entrepreneurship, has been introduced into second-level schools, noted Dardari.

In addition, a range of natural landscapes including deserts dotted with ancient ruins, an untouched Mediterranean coastline and centuries-old castles mean Syria’s potential as an inimitable, cheap and off-the-trail tourist destination is evident.

Yet, problems aplenty remain.

Many of Syria’s major tourist attractions lack modern infrastructure. By International Labor Organization figures, unemployment stands at 10 percent but even Dardari acknowledges the actual figure is at least double that. The country’s dated and crumbling public education system produces too few graduates to match demand in the workplace.

“Most businesses are thirsty for labor. It is not that the economy is not generating enough jobs, it is. But such businesses require a different set of skills and this, providing a competent workforce, is what we must pursue,” said Dardari.

Foreign Direct Investment has increased exponentially but still lags behind international standards and in one of many such cases across the country, a project by the Kuwaiti AREF Investment group announced in 2005 has yet to begin.

For Syrians themselves, substantial ‘wasta’ (influence) is something that elevates a few elite while disheartening many. Last month Hassan Makhlouf, chief of Syria’s customs and a distant relation of the ruling family was dismissed from his post, charged with graft and has since had 137 properties belonging to him and his family seized according to Al-Thawra, a state-run newspaper. The detention has been viewed as a symbolic move by the government to prove that in this new drive to reform the Syrian economy, no one is beyond reach.

Tangled bureaucracy is something that may scare off foreign investors. An employee at a business consultancy in Damascus said it ordinarily takes two years for a business to pass all licensing hurdles while for foreign companies, taking cash out of the country is carefully regulated.

Dozens of business-related decrees are issued by the president every year, but actual implementation is a different story and the Association Agreement with the European Union will not allow for Syrian agricultural products to enter the lucrative European market.

Dardari is clear that transforming Syria into a modern and business-friendly country is not something that will happen overnight and Syrians themselves will have little choice but to adapt.

“People will have difficulty in accepting the changing role of the government,” Dardari said, “but the time of viewing the state as a mother is over.”

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March 25th, 2009, 1:55 pm

 

7. norman said:

The Syrian senate,

الأسد: نبحث تشكيل مجلس جديد له صفة تشريعية في إطار عملية الإصلاح

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March 25th, 2009, 3:32 pm

 

8. norman said:

Syria is moving east , a smart move ,

Syria FM in Iraq for trade, security talks
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was holding talks in neighbouring Iraq on Wednesday on boosting cooperation on trade and security.

“The purpose of the visit is to build a bridge on economic issues, including water, electricity and fuel,” an Iraqi foreign ministry official said as Muallem was meeting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

“They will also discuss border controls and how to strengthen security relations between the two countries,” the official added.

Iraq and the United States have accused Syria of lax controls along the 724-kilometre (450-mile) shared border, which has allowed insurgents, including Al-Qaeda-linked rebels, to reach northern and western parts of the country.

As recently as October, helicopter-borne US soldiers struck a Syrian border village in an attack that left eight people dead, with Washington saying the raid was part of a campaign against foreign fighters operating in Iraq.

Iraq, which said it had not been informed in advance, denounced the raid and said it would harm ties with Syria.

Diplomatic relations between Damascus and Baghdad were severed in 1980 when the countries were ruled by rival Baathist regimes and Syria backed Iran in its 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

Relations started to improve in 2000 and the two nations decided in 2006 to resume formal ties, and Iraq’s first ambassador for nearly 30 years arrived in Damascus in early February to start work.

Muallem first visited Iraq in November

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March 25th, 2009, 3:52 pm

 

9. Akbar Palace said:

What a interesting triumvirate you three would make as Israeli leaders! I would bet that you would solve mid east peace within three months, and we would be all long lost brothers again who suddenly found themselves! (yawns)

Enlightened,

Why bother? No one takes my advice!;)

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March 27th, 2009, 1:08 am

 

10. Yasmeen Posheeda said:

The Aleppo Souq picture by Ketan Gajria is simply beautiful. It captures Syria’s history, rich culture and the preservation of its grandeur in an exquisite manner.

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March 28th, 2009, 11:57 am

 

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