Has its own roadmap for PalestineYemen ready for summit . . . still [Archives:2004/735/Front Page]

May 6 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

Disputes about details of the upcoming Arab summit will soon be ironed out, says Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi,
He's confident the date for the Arab summit will be agreed on when he attends the preliminary meetings of foreign ministers on May 8-9 in Cairo.
“I think we will agree on a time, there is no question about that,” Al-Qirbi told the Yemen Times. “There is talk about it being held on May 22-23 which a number of countries have agreed on. When foreign ministers meet in Cairo, we should confirm the final date for the summit, which I hope will take place on the third week of this month.”
The summit was cancelled by the host country Tunisia right before it was supposed to begin on March 29-30. Arab leaders and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa scrambled to get the summit back on track. After days of talks, Arab countries agreed on holding the summit in Tunisia, but it is unclear when it will take place.
“I don't think the date is the problem,” said Al-Qirbi. “I think the problem is what is to be presented, and I think we are giving this more importance than it deserves.”
Yemen is fully prepared for the summit. The government has put together its own initiative to bring stability to Iraq and end the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establish a Palestinian state.
The Yemeni initiative has gained significant support. A number of Arab countries have approved of Yemen's roadmap to peace and France and Russia have welcomed the plan. Moussa also hailed the Yemeni initiative by saying it was the only initiative that could deal with the Iraqi situation and could be the basis for a unified Arab stance.
The Yemeni government plans to present its initiative at the summit.
“There are a number of issues in the initiative, and there may be some different points of view on its mechanisms, but not on principles,” said Al-Qirbi.
The Minister also stressed that in the initiative, the Arab community should become more involved in bringing solutions to Iraq and Palestine.
“What is important is that Arab countries agree that there is a guarantee for Iraqi unity, with ethnic and religious differences not becoming an element in defining Iraqi politics,” said Al-Qirbi.
“Also important is the Arab role in establishing order and peace in Iraq along with the United Nations. As for Palestine, we feel the Quartet has been slow because it has not been directly involved in Palestinian issues. If the Arabs were represented in the Quartet, they would give momentum to speed up the process of implementing the roadmap.”
Tunisia claimed that it called off the summit due to Arab countries having different positions on political reform that was planned to be discussed. The US Greater Middle East Initiative (GMEI) has raised a stir among Arab governments, demanding that democratic reform must be carried out with no outside interference.
Moussa recently said that GMEI will not be discussed at the summit. But Al-Qirbi noted that political reform, without GMEI included, should be part of the agenda.
“I think it will be included because a lot of countries would like to hear what the Arab position is on this issue,” said Al-Qirbi. “Most Arab countries, either directly or indirectly, have expressed their positions on it, and most, if not all, Arab countries have already taken steps towards reform. Therefore, I don't find any reason why the summit should not address the issue and come up with an Arab point of view.”
Some believe that Tunisia cancelled the summit because a handful of leaders decided not to attend. Al-Qirbi holds that if some leaders don't plan to attend, the summit should be held.
“As long as all Arab governments are represented, each government will state their position, and we will hold to the resolutions coming from the summit,” said Al-Qirbi.
But many have expressed frustration of the summit's delay. With battles between US troops and different groups in Iraq intensified and Israel carrying out an assassination policy of targeting Palestinian leaders, many Arabs have expected a unified Arab position to face these issues.
“With so many problems arising in the Middle East, Arab people want their leaders to act on them,” said a political analyst based in Yemen. “But with the summit being cancelled and arguments over when and where it should be held, confidence among the people has dropped.”
But Al-Qirbi believes that now is the time for countries to pull together and come up with solutions.
“There is now a willingness among Arab countries to forge a new relationship between the countries in the region and with the rest of the world.” said Al-Qirbi. “This willingness should be taken now as an opportunity for all of us to sit together at a round table and see what our responsibilities are, what are our commitments to implement our responsibilities and make them a reality without any imposition from the outside.”