|Achieving Middle East Stability Requires Inclusion and Solidarity, Say Regional Leaders
Dead Sea, Jordan, 18 May 2007 – To achieve stability in the Middle East will require inclusive solutions and solidarity among Arabs and Muslims, leaders from the region said on the second day of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East. In addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the civil strife in Iraq, the continuing unrest in Afghanistan and any other sources of instability, regional and international players must be engaged in the process. “Very often we have seen the high costs of exclusion,” said Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. “We must bring everybody to the table.” Added Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan: “We would not have been able to achieve what we have in Afghanistan in the last five years without the presence of the international community and the cooperation of our neighbours.” The World Economic Forum on the Middle East is bringing together more than 1,200 business, government and civil society leaders from 56 countries to Jordan, where the meeting was first held in 2003.
Leaders in the session discussed the prospects for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and progress towards achieving a “two-state solution” along the lines of the peace plan shaped by Saudi Arabia. Infighting among Palestinians and questions over Iran’s position on the two-state proposal have raised uncertainties about Arab solidarity and the relations between Iran and its Arab neighbours. H.R.H. Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, Chairman, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Saudi Arabia, said: “Our Palestinian brothers have to stop fighting not just with each other. I would also call them to stop fighting Israel with military methods.” He added: “It is a shame that we point our wrath and anger at our fellow Arabs and Muslims in a more deadly manner than we do at our enemies.”
Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Manouchehr Mottaki, said that his country should naturally be involved in the peace process. He said “Iran was and is always a part of the solutions to the crises in the region,” declaring that “we are not talking about the elimination of any nation or country.” He confirmed that the American and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad would meet on 28 May to discuss the situation in Iraq. He also called for closer regional cooperation. “The most important factor is we need more integration – comprehensive integration among countries in the region.”
The Arab peace initiative, which was once again endorsed at the recent Arab League Summit in Riyadh, is the best chance for peace, said Marouf Bakhit, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. “For the first time, the Arabs have taken control of the peace agenda. The Israelis should understand that the Palestinians do not represent a threat to them. It is the Arab states that hold the key to security in Israel.” H.H. Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force, agreed that the peace process must be inclusive and comprehensive. “Solutions that take in some parties will always fail,” he observed. “The solutions have to take in the majority if not all parties.” In response to Mottaki’s comments, he too called for greater regional cooperation and conciliation. “Your national security should be guaranteed in partnership with your neighbours not at their expense,” he warned. “I look forward to the day when we work together collectively as a region.”
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