Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Encouraged by Obama, Arab Governments Move Forward for Peace

For some at home, President Obama’s June 4th address to the Islamic and Arab worlds registered as apologetic, pandering and idealistic. Liberals and conservatives alike criticized the President for his calculated omission of the region’s civil and human rights violations and of Iran’s barefaced support of terrorism.

Leaders in the region, however, were pleased by the address and invigorated by the President’s call to engage. A week after the speech, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arrived in Cairo at the invitation of the General Intelligence Chief, who, the government said, was acting on Obama’s signal to engage the “Islamist resistance movement.”

Egyptian daily Al Ahram reports,

The visit of the influential Hamas leader is meant to set the stage for a new — and Egyptian sponsors hope conclusive — round of national dialogue talks for all Palestinian factions due to convene in Cairo 7 July. Egyptian officials close to the preparations of the next round say that both Egypt and Hamas are “encouraged” by Obama’s signal to “engage” Hamas. They add that Obama’s speech made it clear for all concerned that Palestinian national reconciliation should be reached sooner rather than later.

In the words of one informed diplomat who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity, “the Americans — to judge not just by the Obama speech and talks in Cairo and Riyadh, but also by successive delegations to the region — seem serious about getting engaged in talks for peace. Now the Palestinians and Arabs in general have to work to make these talks possible.” He added that if Obama is determined to pursue Middle East peace, “irrespective of any artificial deadline or timetables”, then “we’d better strip the Israelis of the pretext that there is no ready Palestinian partner”.

According to this source there is no confirmation that the next round of national reconciliation talks will succeed, but there is determination on the side of the Egyptian sponsor to push things forward.

The Arab League has also been moved by Obama’s call for action. On June 24th, Arab foreign ministers will assemble to “‘formulate a new line of Arab diplomacy’ compatible with the spirit of engagement the US president proposed,” Secretary-General Amr Moussa told Al Ahram.

Moussa said the “new line” seeks to create a reciprocal relationship between the Arab states and Israel. This goal was no doubt propelled by Benyamin Netanyahu’s speech earlier this week, in which he–caveats aside– supported the possibility of a two-state solution and an end to the settlements.

In his talks with General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman and Moussa, Meshaal insisted that a “viable Palestinian state” includes the 1967 borders outlined in the Palestinian national accord.

The fate of inter-Palestinian negotiations are similarly tenuous. Meshaal told Al Jazeera that Fatah security forces have been conducting raids against Hamas in the West Bank. Meshaal called the raids “the most difficult obstacle” to reconciliation.

The recent raids in the West Bank, which prompted deadly violence in the city of Qalqilya, have fuelled concerns of a wider conflagration between armed units of Fatah and Hamas.

Meshaal said Hamas and Egyptian officials had discussed how to resolve the crisis, examining options such as freeing Hamas political detainees and ending the security crackdown in the West Bank.

Despite the many hurdles to peace, Dina Ezzat of Al Ahram purports that Egypt is embracing its position as “engagement liason” to reconfigure and cement positive relations with the United States.

From the Egyptian perspective, the resumption of peace talks and positive US engagement in the Middle East is improving bilateral relations. “Egyptian-American relations are moving on a positive path because there is a will on the side of the [new US] administration to conduct dialogue rather than dictate policies as was the case with the previous administration.”

Egyptian and Arab officials say they are considering stepping up consultations with — and maybe also visits to — the US in order to keep the “positive” momentum going. “We want details beyond the speech” and the guidelines that were offered during the Obama talks in Riyadh and Cairo, commented one Egyptian diplomat. He said that future talks between Egyptian, as well as Arab, officials and their US counterparts should focus on these details.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Already losing steam in the Arab world?

February 10, 2009 Leave a comment

In Sunday’s New York Times, Egyptian novelist Alaa al Aswany writes that by failing to speak up on the situation in Gaza is causing attrition to President Obama’s political capital in the Middle East.

While the Western media–and perhaps this venue included–were labeling Obama’s bold intiative in reaching out to Arabs and Muslims by speaking with Al Arabiya, Aswany says the reaction in Cairo was… well, muted at best:

But while most of my Egyptian friends knew about the interview, by then they were so frustrated by Mr. Obama’s silence that they weren’t particularly interested in watching it. I didn’t see it myself, but I went back and read the transcript. Again, his elegant words did not challenge America’s support of Israel, right or wrong, or its alliances with Arab dictators in the interest of pragmatism.

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