In February, 22nd 2019, millions of Algerians have taken to the streets in cities nationwide as well as abroad, shattering the wall of fear of silence, demanding the departure of the-then President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who proceeded to run for a fifth presidential term despite his poor health. This announcement sparked anger among Algerian citizens, giving birth to a massive grassroots movement in several cities, the biggest outpouring of dissent seen in Algeria for decades in 1988 due to social despair, which surprised the international community and observers of Algerian politics due to its peaceful nature.
What happened as a reaction to these marches?
The former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika responded favorably to the pressure of his resignation. He stepped down on April 2nd reversing his decision to seek a fifth term in power, however, this decision has failed to appease protesters and satisfy their claims. Protesters, young and old, men and women from all walks of life, indeed, remained in the streets every Friday re-appropriating long confiscated public spaces and calling for the overhaul of the whole system and the sweeping away of the remnants of Bouteflika’s inner circle, viewed as corrupt. They have directed drawing rage at the political elite they blame driving the country to a political deadlock and economic collapse.
Politically, this departure was about to create a political vacuum, thus, the army interfered, under the leadership of the late Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaid Salah, Deputy Minister of National Defense, Chief of the Army Staff, (in Algeria, the President of the Republic assumes the post of Minister of National Defense), who positioned himself on the side of people by bringing forward Bouteflika’s resignation.
Late Gaid Salah, in a speech, addressed to the nation, called for the application of the article 102 of the Algerian constitution, appointing the Speaker of the Council of the Nation Abdelkader Bensalah as an interim Head of State for a maximum period of 90 days until an election will be organized, in an attempt to calm down the Algerian people. Another political Rendez-Vous was set on July, 4th, however, the Algerians still boycotted it as millions of them continued to protest every week rejecting the holding of elections by the state institutions, a remnant of the previous regime.
Responding to these demands, Algeria put off the presidential election planned for July 4th, due to the lack of valid candidates, as announced by constitutional council, which added that the files submitted by the two candidates – Abdelhakim Hammadi, a doctor specializing in pharmacy, and Hamid Touahri, a retired aircraft maintenance engineer –had been rejected for not meeting the requirements.
The first postponement of the election, constitutionally mandated to replace the former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is considered, on the one hand, a win for protesters, and, on the other hand, the country will come into lull pause and enter a constitutional vacuum, as this roadmap adopted, till then, by the Constitutional Council have met several constitutional articles, such as; seven, eight, 102 and 193.
Seven and eight states that the whole power is granted to people as this latter is ‘the source of all power’ and that they have the right to exercise their sovereignty ‘through the institutions themselves’.
While the last two (102 and 193), respectively, indicate that the president of the Council must assume the office of Head of State for a three-month period, at most, till the organization of new elections.
However, this case, ie the “second postponement of July 4th election” is not mentioned in the constitution. Consequently, the Constitutional Council interfered, again to avoid the chaos likely to result from this political deadlock, issuing a ruling extending Bensaleh mandate until the next presidential elections, held in December.
What were the reforms introduced by the government? Did they satisfy the protesters?
In fact, the government found itself at a deadlock in face of huge protests, dubbed by observers as the largest and purposeful one, where people called for deep political reforms and the removal of all officials belonging to the old guard. The only solution for it to get out of the political crisis was certainly dialogue and negotiations between the regime and protesters. The Army managed to take action against corrupted officials from the previous guard, tipping the balance of power in favor of the protesters. They launched “Clean Hands” campaign with a view to rooting out corruption linked to top tycoons and high-ranked government officials.
Several high-ranking officials, former Prime Ministers, including Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, Ex- and current Ministers, tycoons from powerful families with links to the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and Heads of major companies and financial institutions were being questioned on corruption-related cases and then given huge sentences. Different investigations into corruption, customs-related violations, and other financial wrongdoing have been launched too, targeting the most powerful tycoons in Algeria, most of them were remanded in custody.
In addition to investigations into hampering the well- functioning of the army and State targeting members of the ruling elite, namely; Said Bouteflika, the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s youngest brother and two former intelligence chiefs, the Generals Bachir Athman Tartag and his predecessor, General Mohamed Madine, aka Gen. Toufik. A military court convicted the brother of ousted President Bouteflika, Said Bouteflika, who had wielded enormous influence as a gatekeeper to his ailing brother while in office. He was seen as the linchpin of an opaque clique of politicians and business leaders who influenced decision-making at the top of the gas-exporting North African country. The advisor and key aide of the former President of the Republic Bouteflika is incarcerated in Blida prison and sentenced to heaving prison term alongside the other co-defendants – two former intelligence chiefs.
Ex-Prime Ministers, namely: Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal were, also, imprisoned for multiple accusations; embezzlement of public money, abuse of office and granting of undue privileges. Other officials and Ex and current Governors are due to appear before the investigating judge at the Supreme Court.
These actions illustrate the government, under the leadership of the late Army chief of staff Ahmed Gaid Salah’s will to respond to the protesters’ demands and purge corrupt politicians, oligarchs, and military officials so as to restore the confidence of the people.
How Algeria’s Dec.12 Presidential Vote was decided?
As a response to protesters’ claims who demanded dialogue and the involvement of the all stakeholders in the political life, the Algerian Head of State Abdelkader Bensalah set up a panel to oversee a national dialogue with a view to hold a presidential election, already postponed twice, aimed at ending the political deadlock, prevailing in Algeria since February, 22nd.
This panel’s plan of action consisted of rounds of dialogue with different stakeholders to develop proposals, to be discussed at the national conference, where the date of the election was determined. Several meetings were on the agenda bringing under one roof national personalities in charge of leading the national dialogue, including civil society organizations, political parties, national figures as well as young people and activists of Al-Hirak (the popular protest) from different provinces of the country. In contrast, the state, in all its components, including the military institution, were not part of this dialogue, restricting its role in observing the strictest neutrality throughout the course of this process.
Dialogue was in full swing, allowing the participants to express their respective positions in relation to the peaceful people’s movement, but especially to make their arguments to transcend the current political stalemate. The objective was to bring together the points of view of each other in order to synthesize the proposals to reach a consensual platform, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to draw up a roadmap.
In this sense, the participants insisted on the need to set a date for the presidential election as soon as possible and take necessary measures to ensure transparent and fair election, in addition to the setting-up of national independent authority in charge of preparing, monitoring and announcing the final results of the election.
The need to avoid the constitutional vacuum in order to preserve the State’s institutions has been widely highlighted, considering that the presidential polls of Dec. 12 was crucial steps for building the rule of law, and a passage that will lead the North African country to a new bright and promising era, where the Algerian people would finally be able to achieve their legitimate aspirations for a decent life, in a country whose glory will be made by its loyal sons.
However, the national personalities debated too the conditions, the political, legal and institutional dimensions to bring credibility to the next presidential election to ensure the organization of the election under the best conditions.
Did Presidential Election holding end Algeria’s political deadlock?
Former Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune has won Algeria’s decisive presidential election without the need for a second-round runoff, replacing the long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The presidential election was, as I mentioned before, the only way out of the political deadlock the nation has been going through since Feb. 22.
Upon his inauguration as 8th president of Algeria, Mr. Tebboune extended his hand to the protesters, stressing he was ready to meet with protest leaders to listen to them (and) respond to their concerns. He said that his priority was to revise the constitution to establish a new Algeria that corresponds to the aspirations of the movement, a project that would be put to a referendum. He promised to include young men and young women in his new government.
Did the newly-elected President fulfill his commitments?
Colossal efforts are being made. The President is exerting huge efforts
with a view to responding to the protesters’ claims and constructing a new
Algeria in fidelity to the oath made to the Chouhada of the War of liberation
and to the Declaration of the First November.
Regarding his priorities as President of the Republic, Tebboune said that, at the political level, he intends to carry out profound and extensive constitutional reforms, involving academics, intellectuals, specialists and members of the national community living abroad, and effectively, the President had started consultations with a number of national figures and political parties within the framework of a broad dialogue without exclusion on this important issue. The presidents and representatives of different political parties have expressed their “readiness” in their respective statements to the enrichment of the text which is currently submitted to a committee of experts for the preparation of the first version with a view to enriching it, considering that this approach goes in the direction of building a new Algeria, promised by President Tebboune during his electoral campaign for the presidential election of December 12, 2019.
It is, thus, expected that the committee of experts will complete its mission around March 15 and will present a first version of the Constitution which will be subject to debate and enrichment, in accordance with the agenda adopted by the President of the Republic.
Between 500 and 700 copies of this first version will be distributed to all stakeholders concerned by the revision of the country’s Basic Law, in addition to publication on a website dedicated to the constitutional revision and on social networks so as to allow all citizens to debate and enrich the text.
At the end of the month-long debates, the draft will again be submitted to the Committee of Experts, which will carry the proposed amendments and modifications before submitting the text to Parliament and then to a popular referendum.
As a reminder, the President of the Republic had emphasized compliance with the agenda adopted for the revision of the Constitution, the Committee of Experts having been set up on January 8, 2020, and divided into seven working groups, in accordance with the seven axes contained in the mission letter sent by the Head of State to the Committee.
The Head of State had outlined, in a mission letter addressed to Mr. Laraba, seven axes of proposals and recommendations around which the Committee must reflect.
These axes concern “the strengthening of citizens’ rights and freedoms”, “the moralization of public life and the fight against corruption”, “the consolidation of the separation and balance of powers”, “the strengthening of the power of control of the Parliament “,” the consolidation of the independence of the judiciary “,” the consolidation of the equality of the citizens before the law “and” the constitutional consecration of the mechanisms of organization of the elections “.
The President, through the amendment of the constitution, seeks to fulfill the demands of the people and address their grievances, including decrees that reduce the powers of the President, reduce the presidential terms to one, able to be renewed once, protect Algeria from falling into individual rule and create a balance between institutions, ensuring separation of powers, build a strong State where citizens, equal before the law, exercise their rights freely and lawfully and establish the rule of law and equal opportunities that will be the essence of the new Algeria, committing to setting radical change of the governing system, through deepening democracy and the rule of law, reinforcing social justice, and protecting human rights.
Besides, during his presidential campaign, the President promised to include young ministers, a promise that came true.
With respect to economy, Tebboune voiced his will to establish a diversified economy that generates jobs and wealth. He periodically chairs meetings with the new members of government to start developing an action plan to be presented to Parliament with a view to saving economy from collapse and reform education, universities, and the health treatment system. He appointed the technocrat Abdelaziz Djerad as Prime Minister on Sec.28, 2019 and banned the practice of addressing the President as “His Excellency”.
He promised, also, to tackle the corruption and vowed to make the judiciary independent and distanced from officials’ meddling and power. This later has released large number of the detainees who were arrested in relation to the long-running anti-regime protests since the end of 2019, like on Jan 02, 2020, 76 people, including an elderly war of independence veteran Lakhdar Bouregga whose arrest has attracted particular anger were released. President Tebboune, also, decreed a presidential pardon (February 2020) that included 3471 people incarcerated in various jails across the country. This pardon, usually, decreed on July, 5, which is the commemoration of Independence Day, coincided, this time, with the month marking the beginning of the popular movement against the old guard.
Other reforms are entrusted to a 17-member panel of experts with three-month time to draw up a list of suggested changes which will, then, be put to the parliament and a referendum.
The conclusion is that President Tebboune is working on reforms in various spheres of life; economy, education, housing, etc, apparently to appease the protesters because it is worth mentioning that the Hirak is still taking place. Regular smaller anti-regime protests continue with protesters skeptical about the extent of constitutional and other reforms formulated under this government and whether they will lead to genuine democratizing reform of the country. They seek sweeping political reforms for meaningful democratic change.
Tebboune, for his part, has dubbed this popular movement, of which the first anniversary was celebrated weeks ago by the Algerians, as a “salutary phenomenon,” warning against any attempt at internal or external infiltration. He further sealed a decree enshrining 22 February a national holiday named +the National Day of Fraternity and Cohesion between the people and their Army for democracy. On different occasions, Tebboune reaffirmed that the blessed Hirak has preserved the country from total demolition. According to him, the collapse of the national state is a synonym with the demolition of all its institutions and all the indicators pointed to such a scenario. Thanks to their maturity, the people thwarted the plot by fulfilling many of their claims.
As regards the remaining demands of the Hirak, Tebboune asserted that he is working on them because he personally committed to meeting them and changing the management method and improving the piteous image of the State, which, in fact, was very far from his concerns.
According to the President, protesting is the right of all citizens and it is even the foundation of democracy, a fortiori when it comes to people demonstrating in an organized manner, without destruction or disturbance. He repeatedly highlighted that he has nothing to reproach because it has spared the country a disaster and without it, efforts would be, today, underway to resolve the crisis in Algeria as is the case in Libya. However, he keeps warning the protesters, who demonstrate on Fridays, dubbing them as his children, to be vigilant against the infiltration of their movement because there are signs of infiltration both from inside and outside.
What do you suggest as economic reforms?
Well, this week, a working meeting on the assessment of the economic situation, in the aftermath of the drastic fall in oil prices impacted by the global economic slowdown caused by coronavirus outbreak and the unilateral decision by some OPEC member countries to sell their crude oil output with particularly aggressive discounts, was held under the chairmanship of the President, where this latter gave guidelines to face a situation which remains difficult but which the State possesses the national means to face.
In this regard, the President of the Republic instructed the members of the Government, present in this meeting, to take all the necessary measures to curb the effects of this unfavorable situation for the national economy, while stressing on the need to preserve the citizens’ revenue and living standards.
The minister of finance has been instructed to immediately submit a first draft of the Complementary Finance law to remove some inconsistencies in the 2020 Finance Law. The objective is to include measures capable of countering the financial effects caused by the crisis and collect the unrecovered taxes and customs revenue. He has also been entrusted with speeding up the process of creating private Islamic banks.
The President of the Republic firmly rejected the resort to foreign borrowing and unconventional financing.
Instructions have been given to the minister of commerce to undertake judicious management of imports without affecting citizens or the national economy. With sufficient resources for the years 2020 and 2021, the State is not likely to suffer shortages in industrial inputs or necessary products.
Also, the head of the State instructed the minister of agriculture to increase national production in order to at least halve the import of produces destined for human and animal consumption, especially corn and red meats.
The Industry and Mines Minister has been instructed, for his part, to immediately set up all the arrangements leading to a national production with 70% integration rate for the light industry, hitherto artificially applied by the CKD/SKD formula, and re-launch mechanical engineering with a 35% integration rate at least.
He has also been instructed to encourage, without any restriction, the creation of micro, small businesses and start-ups and to remove all forms of regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles to their expansion.
As for him, the Governor of the Central Bank was instructed to accompany these steps aiming at reviving economic activity, just as he was tasked with transferring into the legal gold reserve all customs seizures as well as the National Solidarity Fund which had been frozen for several decades.
Likewise, he has been entrusted with ensuring the repayment of loans granted by banks to private investment holders. Finally, the President of the Republic ordered members of the government to continue to closely follow, under the authority of the Prime Minister, the situation with a view to taking all the necessary measures in the event of prolonged deterioration of the economic situation so to protect citizens.”
I think this meeting covered different economic aspects. As we know,
Algeria faces the herculean task of transforming its economy to meet the
pressing demands of a young, growing, and increasingly restless population.
Despite the country’s favorable demographics, its economy remains almost
entirely dependent on oil and natural gas, which accounts for 95% of
merchandise exports. Unfortunately, Algeria’s economy is in trouble. It is
facing the effects of nearly decades of energy-sector dominance and, in some
Algeria’s tighter economic circumstances have hindered the state’s ability to provide services properly. Inflation and a concomitant increase in the cost of living have made it more difficult for many to secure daily needs.
Energy consumption is also rising at a fast pace in the country, so much that the national gas company, Sonatrach, estimates that it will exceed domestic production by 2025 if better efficiency and new fields are not found. Algeria is, therefore, in dire need of economic diversification.
Tebboune’s government is entitled to carry out the required economic reforms to end the economy’s reliance on oil through the new economic growth paradigm, empowering the private sector and reshaping the social contract. Former governments have sought to implement similar reforms, but their bids fell short of achieving the goals.
Success of the new government in overcoming the above challenges hinges on a number of factors, such as:
Introducing a new development model based on economic diversification away from oil. However, economic diversification requires the reshaping of a growth model to include competitive economic sectors, such as; tourism, manufacturing industries, and the auto industry in particular. It also requires gradual liberalization of fiscal, monetary and trade policies to promote revitalization of the private sector. In addition to empowering this latter, as Algeria must encourage this sector to contribute in all economic activities. This is essential for easing the huge fiscal burden that the government had to bear over the past years.
What about Algeria’s foreign policy?
In his first speech since being sworn into office, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune confirmed Algiers’ previous stances on various policies, stressing on Algeria’s fundamental principles, namely: the defense of national independence, the recovery of national identity, the denial of any form of interference, refusal of any foreign military base on its soil, rejection of alliance policy and military pacts, and active participation in the struggle against underdevelopment and poverty, principle of reciprocity, the non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and the peaceful settlement of crises.
As all we know, Algeria is a pivotal country at the African, Mediterranean and Arab levels. It will continue to play a leading role in the settlement of different crises as it did in the past in Mali where an agreement was signed in Algeria’s capital “Algiers” bringing the warring parties together. It categorically rejects the formulation of alliances to attack sovereign countries, for instance, it refused, in the strongest terms, to join the Saudi-led Military Alliance, considering it as an act of aggression.
Regarding Western Sahara, Tebboune highlighted Algiers’ policy towards this conflict, renewing the country’s unwavering and unconditional support for the legitimate right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination through a free and fair referendum, and to stand by its side to reach a permanent solution to its just cause in accordance with international law and legitimacy, in line with the United Nations doctrine of decolonization.
Broaching the situation in Libya, Algeria is still attached to the stability of this country, refusing to be kept out of the settlement process.
Algeria, under the leadership of President Tebboune, will continue to play a leading role in the resolution of the crisis in Libya. The main principles of the Algerian initiative are known. The solution can only be political and peaceful and can only come from the Libyans themselves with international support and notably neighboring countries.
Algeria has, as part of its efforts aimed at reaching a solution to the Libyan crisis, relaunched several mechanisms given the effects of the Libyan conflict on this country. Algiers hosted, on January 13th, the foreign minister meeting of Libya’s neighboring countries (Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Chad, Sudan, and Niger) to establish coordination and promote dialogue between these countries and the international players so that to accompany the Libyans in the revitalization of the political settlement process of the crisis through an inclusive dialogue between the different Libyan parties.
Besides, Former Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra is being considered as UN envoy to Libya, after Ghassan Salame resigned from the post earlier this month. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been consulting with U.N. Security Council members about appointing former Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra as his new Libya envoy,
Lamamra served as Algeria’s foreign minister from 2013 to 2017 and as an African Union commissioner for peace and security from 2008 to 2013. He has been a mediator in several African conflicts, notably in Liberia.
With respect to Arab causes, President Tebboune remains stressing that the Palestinian issue is a constant of the foreign policy of the Algerian state. Algeria will remain a support for Palestine and its people who are fighting against a brute colonial force until the achievement of its independent state.
More recently, Algeria voiced rejection of the Middle East peace plan sponsored by US President Donald Trump, which gives Israel the right to have Jerusalem as its capital.
Besides, Algeria still asks the League of Arab States to end the freeze on Syria’s membership and to re-represent it again in its meetings and activities, especially that this year’s Summit will be held in Algeria. Syria has been suspended from the Arab League since 2012, when a coalition of countries, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, voted to suspend their membership.
According to Algerian Radio, Boukadoum said: “the absence of Syria has caused great harm to the League and the Arabs.” He would add that “we must push for the return of Syria’s membership and work for Damascus to return to the League of Arab States.”
What about Algeria’s participation in the works of the African Union (AU)?
The works of the African Union (AU) Summit held in Addis Ababa marked Algeria’s return to the African arena, with the President of the Republic Abdelmadjid Tebboune reaffirming commitment and immutable positions towards the resolution of conflicts in Africa and the world.
President Tebboune, thus, marked his participation in this meeting of Heads of State and Government with a speech that was very well attended by his African peers, in which he stated that “the new Algeria, in the process of being built, will remain faithful to its principles and commitments, and will henceforth play fully its role at the continental level and globally.” Meanwhile, President Tebboune praised the major achievements and the efficient contribution of the African Union in building peace at the continental and regional levels, through the establishment of institutional frameworks of peace and security mechanisms.
The head of State voiced Algeria’s commitment to contribute more effectively to achieving development in the African continent, which is well illustrated as mentioned before.
Algeria believes, basing on its successful experience, especially the tragic decade lived by the Algerian people during the 1990s, that resolving the crises in our continent requires a peaceful solution, all-inclusive dialogue, and national reconciliation, far from any foreign interference.
As regards African continent, President Tebboune believes that Algeria’s successful experience confirms his conviction that resolving the crises in the African continent requires a peaceful solution, all-inclusive dialogue, and national reconciliation, far from any foreign interference. Stemming from this deep conviction, Algeria will always work tirelessly to support efforts aimed at the establishment of peace and security in Africa.”
On all these matters, Algeria has constantly contributed, in multiple manners, to the efforts aiming the establishment of durable stability in Africa, particularly in the Sahel region, whether at the bilateral level or through mechanisms such as; the Joint Operational Army Staffs Committee (CEMOC) or the Fusion and Liaison Unit (UFL) or through the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT).
Speaking about Libya during the work of this Summit, especially that
Algeria shares a long border and a common destiny with that shattered country,
the Algerian Head of State said that the situation in this country continues to
arouse anxiety in Algeria, calling it grave.
Referring to the brotherly Libyan people’s suffering, who do not deserve the suffering they endure today, Tebboune confirmed Algeria faithfulness to its diplomatic tradition, offering to host a dialogue between the Libyan brothers, as stated in Berlin and, recently, in Brazzaville, during the summit of the AU Level High Committee on Libya, held under the patronage of the President Denis Sassou Nguesso.
The Head of State stressed that Algeria which calls for the end of all attempts of interference in Libya strongly supports the continuous efforts to end hostilities and to create the conditions for dialogue between the Libyan brothers, the sole means to finding a solution to the crisis and to prevent this African country from being the scene of rivalries of States.
Broaching the Sahel crisis, Tebboune described it as “sad and regrettable illustration”, noting that “the already fragile stability in countries, such as Mali, suddenly deteriorated in the aftermath of the crisis in Libya. Niger also did not escape to the deadly attacks on his army. “
President Tebboune also reiterated Algeria’s solidarity with different countries namely; the Lake Chad Basin which are facing the subversive acts of Boko Haram, with the help of the Multinational Joint Force, denouncing the resurgence of bloody terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso and other attempted attacks in Sahel countries, spreading instability throughout the Sahel despite the courageous efforts of these countries.
As long as Western Sahara is concerned, President Tebboune urges rapid appointment of UN Envoy to Western Sahara, emphasizing the need for a solution that guarantees the inalienable right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination, through the organization of a free and fair referendum in accordance with the AU and UN relevant resolutions.
Returning back to the Arab League Summit, what are the prospects of this political Rendez-Vous? What will be the role of Algeria?
In my opinion, Algeria eyes to play a very essential and considerable role in restoring balance to join Arab action. Tebboune has promised to exert huge efforts with a view to resolving crises, paving the way for a new era and gaining the strategic country’s pivotal role at the regional, Arab and global scales.
As we know, and for many years, and though Algeria suffered from paralysis and powerlessness, its role in finding peaceful solutions to the crises through reconciliation, convergence of views and inclusive dialogue, has been highly commended and appreciated. Now, following its recovery at all levels, it is, by its credibility and integrity, committed to a strong return to diplomacy especially at the Arab level, which the joint Arab action, has lacked for so.
In addition, we notice that the Algerian diplomacy has flourished following the exchange of visits between the Algerian President and the flow of Arab and international leaders, ministers, and high-ranking officials and delegations, the last and not the least, the visit paid by the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, to discuss means and ways to further boost and bolster bilateral relations and revive mechanisms of cooperation and coordination, in addition, to reach an agreement on the delimitation of sea boundaries between both countries.
I think that the frequent visits foreshadow an upcoming change in the Algerian diplomacy. Observers expect that this strong return will lead to positive breath thoughts in many thorny issues.
What are the approaches advocated by Algeria?
For Algeria and its people, reconciliation and dialogue are the best ways to solve crises, while asserting that the Palestinian cause remains the compass of Arab and Islamic dignity.
President Tebboune hopes that the holding of the Summit in the Algerian capital “Algiers” will shake off all the dust of neglect from this auspicious organization and pump new blood into its frozen arteries with a view to ending the sowing of seeds of disaccords and preventing military escalation in the Arab nation as Algeria is able to play its role as a mediator based on the principles of its Glorious Revolution of November 1. This is stemmed from the deep conviction of Algerians in the virtues of unity, especially when it comes to our brothers. It is extremely difficult for Algeria to see oppressed peoples suffering and not to act.
What about the postponement of the Summit?
In my opinion, the postponement of the next Summit means that it will be
different, and will take place in the presence of Syria, to, as mentioned by
our President, to correct a historical mistake committed in one of the most
degraded stages that led to the Arab collapse.
Preparations are afoot; President of the Republic Abdelmadjid Tebboune received, in Algiers, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, with whom he tackled the arrangements for holding the thirty-first regular session of the Arab Summit, which Algeria offered to host this year, stressing that it will take place, if the global situation improves, before June 30.
Algeria aspires to shed light, during the work of this Summit, on different causes, notably, the Libyan one where chaos has endured for nine years with a plentiful supply of arms, in addition to the Syrian cause as Algeria remains faithful to its principles, rejecting, in the strongest terms, any attack on any Arab country. President Tebboune recently, and during an interview with Russia Today, mentioned that what weakened Syria at the international level is the fact that this country is among the rare Arab ones that have never considered the normalization of its ties with Israel and has always been a front-line state, a position that for many years underpinned its politics and economy.
From our partner Tehran Times
China-Arab Relations: From Silk to Friendship
China and the Arabs have a long and rich economic and cultural history, and this distinguished relationship still exists today, with a promising future. This bilateral relationship between the two nations is based on the principles of respect and non-interference in internal affairs or foreign policies. Therefore, China’s relationship with the Arabs as well as with other nations is unique and a model to be followed. If you meet a Chinese person, the first phrase will be “Alabo” or an Arab in Mandarin, and he/she will welcome you. The Chinese state’s dealings with its counterparts can be measured based on the model of this Chinese citizen. China deals with the Arabs on the basis of friendship and historical ties.
The history of Sino-Arab relations goes back to the Tang Dynasty, and these relations developed with the flourishing of trade between the two nations. Since China was famous for its high quality silk, this trade route was called the “Silk Road”. Baron Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen, better known in English as Baron von Richthofen, was a German traveller, geographer, and scientist. He is noted for coining the terms “Seidenstraße” and “Seidenstraßen” = “Silk Road” or “Silk Route” in 1877.
Chinese-Arab relations have developed in contemporary history. In 1930, China established official relations with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A library in China was named the “Fouad Islamic Library”, after the late Egyptian king, “Fuad the First”. In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser cut ties with China and established relations with the Communist People’s Republic of China and inaugurated an embassy in Egypt. In the same year, the Arab League established relations with the People’s Republic of China. By the year 1990, all Arab countries cut their relations with the Republic of China and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
In 2004, the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was established, and today it is considered a milestone for the Sino-Arab relationship. At its inauguration, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing delivered a speech stating:“The Arab world is an important force on the international scene, and that China and the Arab countries have enjoyed a long friendship. Our similar history, our common goals and our broad interests have been credited with enhancing cooperation between the two sides; no matter how the international situation changes, China has always been the sincere friend of the Arab world”. The China-Arab Cooperation Forum was officially established during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the headquarters of the League of Arab States in January of 2004.
Hu Jintao indicated at that time that the formation of the forum is a continuation of the traditional friendship between China and the Arab world. The Chinese president said at the time, “The establishment of the forum is conducive to expanding mutual cooperation in a variety of fields. He added that China had made four proposals; First, maintaining mutual respect, fair treatment and sincere cooperation at the political level. Second, strengthening economic and trade relations through cooperation in the fields of investment and trade, contracted projects, labor services, energy, transportation, communications, agriculture, environmental protection and information. Third, expand cultural exchanges. Finally, conducting training for the employees.”
During the second session of the forum in Beijing in 2006, China showed its sympathy for the issues of the Arab world and its interest in the peace process between Palestine and Israel, since China is a peace-loving country; it presented the idea of “a nuclear-free Middle East”. China is the best friend of the Arab countries today. Although some Arab countries have strong relations with the West whose policy does not match the Chinese policy, but all Arab countries agree on friendly and good relations with the People’s Republic of China.
The Arab citizen is not interested today in the foreign policy of the US, the deadly weapons of the US and Russia, or European culture, but rather the livelihood and economy, and this is what China provides through its wise economic policy. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative, or New Silk Road, which will restore glow to China-Arab relations; as the Arab world is in a strategic location on the initiative map. Thus, the Arab countries are an important partner for China in the initiative. Although the volume of trade exchanges between China and the Arab countries exceeded 200 billion US dollars, which increased 10 times over the past decade, there was no commercial and institutional arrangement to facilitate trade between the two sides.
China, as a peaceful and non-invasive country, aims to promote economic cooperation with Arab region on an equal basis because it considers the Arab world a historic partner. The historical experience of the Arabs with the Chinese through the Silk Road has confirmed that China differs from the nations of colonialism and imperialism, which consider the Arab region a place rich in natural resources only. In his historic speech at the Arab League, Chinese President Xi stressed that China will not seek to extend influence and search for proxies in the Middle East. The Chinese initiatives will contribute to establishing security and stability through economic development and improving the people’s livelihood, in line with the post-2015 development agenda and the aspirations of the Arab people for a better life, as the Chinese experience proves that development is the key to digging out the roots of conflicts and extremism in all its forms.
China is a neutral country and does not favor the use of violence. During the Syrian crisis, for example, the Chinese envoy to the Security Council raised his hand three times, meaning that China, with its wise diplomacy, supported the Syrian regime without entering the military war. During the recent Chinese military parade, Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed some Chinese military capabilities and thus sent a message to the enemies that China will always be ready if a war is imposed on it, and a message of support to China’s allies. The Arab region today needs a real partner who possesses economic and military power and international political influence, such as China; to ensure the success of the Belt and Road Initiative, and to consolidate the China-Arab relations and raise it to the level of a strategic alliance.
The analysis of developments in relations between Turkey and Israel
The fear of Biden’s Administration, the concern over the Abraham Accords (see below), the positioning of the geopolitical status in the Middle East, and the safeguarding of interests in Israel are the main factors through which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seeks to improve relations with Israel which, however, he connects to the Palestinians.
The statements made by Turkish President Erdoğan’s on developments in relations with Israel have confirmed media reports of his repeated attempts to reach an understanding on several controversial issues, as well as paving the way for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. The statements made by President Erdoğan, as well as other Turkish officials, have stressed the connection between the change in Turkish-Israeli relations and Israel’s policy towards the Palestinian issue.
The “linking principle” connecting the two issues has been a key factor in Turkish foreign policy since the 1950s, and it operates in the range between words and deeds, which at times have also led to severe crises in the relations between the two countries.
At the time Turkey opposed the partition plan, but recognised Israel and maintained diplomatic relations with it. Relations were suspended after the second Arab-Israeli war in 1956, when Turkey recalled its diplomatic representative from Tel Aviv, announcing he would not return there “until a just solution to the Palestinian issue was found in accordance with UN Resolutions”.
After rising to power, President Erdoğan has developed the aforementioned “linking principle”. Against the backdrop of Israel’s actions with the Palestinians, Turkey has increased its political and economic support for its Muslim brethren and caused crises.
President Erdoğan’s recent statements have been made against the backdrop of this policy: on the one hand, the Turkish President has expressed his country’s desire to improve relations with Israel and continue intelligence cooperation; on the other hand, he has maintained that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is “unacceptable”.
It is important to note that Turkey will not relinquish the “linking principle”, which differs from the principle of the new Arab normalisation, based on the separation between the Palestinian issue and relations with Israel. The so-called Abraham Accords, such as the recognition of the State of Israel by the United Arab Emirates in September last year: the third Arab country to formally recognise Israel, after Egypt and Jordan; the fourth one if we considers Mauritania’s “frozen” recognition.
The policy implemented by President Erdoğan is not only shaped by foreign relations, but is also a Turkish internal issue in which public opinion plays a key role. It seems that until elections are held in Turkey (scheduled for June 25, 2023), there will be no complete normalisation with Israel. The majority of the Turkish population supports the Palestinians and their rights, feels full solidarity for them and opposes the Israeli presence.
Moreover, President Erdoğan regards the Palestinian issue as an important factor in building a renewed Turkish Muslim national identity. These stances increase his popularity and strengthen people’s support for him and his party, as well as his authority and prestige in the Muslim world.
At the same time, however, this policy also has pragmatic implications: President Erdoğan is not severing ties with Israel, but merely creating actions that lead to symptoms of “diplomatic” crises.
Despite this wait-and-see attitude, economic ties between Turkey and Israel are flourishing. According to official data, in 2018 exports from Turkey to Israel were worth 6.5 billion dollars and imports 1.9 billion dollars (excluding diamond trade and tourism).
Following the crisis in relations and the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador from Turkey (May 2018), exports had fallen to 4 billion dollars in 2019 and imports to 1.7 billion dollars. Although declining, there are still deep economic ties.
Trade relations, however, are not the decisive factor in determining the nature of Turkey-Israel relations. There are four issues that are believed to have led Turkey to review its relations with Israel:
1. Turkey has welcome the new U.S. President, Joe Biden, with caution and fear that he will oppose Turkish activities in the region. The U.S. leader may also be very tough on security, armaments and minority rights in Turkey. Some believe that improved relations with Israel will calm down the situation with President Biden, and the U.S. Congress and the Zionist lobby will be able to contribute to this result. It is not known, however, whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be as good a mediator with Biden as he was with Donald Trump.
2. Turkey is seeking to remove the isolation imposed on it due to the distribution of marine economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean area, and is trying to bring Israel on its side to develop a joint stance and oppose such subdivisions. According to Israeli sources, Turkey has made Israel a generous offer to expand its area of control over the marine economic zones, in exchange for Turkey’ siding with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt. Israel has reacted cautiously, both because it much weighs President Erdoğan’s intentions and because it is actually interested in strengthening its relations with the above stated countries.
3. Turkey is worried about the Abraham Accords for normalisation with Israel, particularly the aforementioned one with the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey aims at limiting their influence and status as a further “undertaking” of Arab rivals. Turkey endeavours to dismantle a rising alliance between the Arab countries and Israel. After all, we wonder why Turkey is not instead trying to improve its ties with Arab countries to achieve the same goal. Could it still be because of history and traditional mutual dislike?
4. Turkey is trying to relieve the pressure on its activities in Israel and Palestine as a result of the possible improvement in relations with Israel. Turkey funds important projects in Jerusalem and Israel is trying to contain and restrain it. Conversely, an improvement in Israeli-Turkish relations could release the Israeli brake.
To date, no official Israeli response has been provided to Turkish statements. Israel’s media speak of suspicion and coldness in response to the Turkish rapprochement, with fears that President Erdoğan is preparing a ploy, a trick aimed not at improving his relations with Israel, but at sabotaging Israel’s relations and contacts with other countries.
However, leaks from senior Israeli officials indicate that their country has set conditions for restoring relations, which include ending Turkey’s ties with Hamas and transferring Turkish projects to Jerusalem through Israeli channels, as well as abstaining from voting against Israel in international organisations and adopting a balanced position between Israel and the Palestinians.
It is not yet clear what the fate of Turkey-Israel relations will be in the coming months, with President Biden in the White House and after the Israeli elections held on March 23, 2021. It is important to note, however, that Turkey will not give up the “linking principle”, which differs from the new principle of Arab normalisation, based on the separation between the Palestinian issue and relations with Israel.
The Turkish “linking principle” is a real need for Turkey- hence the Palestinian leadership must work with Turkey to maximise common goals, especially with regard to Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Gaza.
Not easy steps to make, but not impossible either.
The Exceptionality of the Hashemite Rule in Jordan
In the tumultuous politics of the Middle East, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has traditionally steered a cautious and successful course in international relations. This course largely relies on a multidimensional foreign policy and the cementing of relations with regional and western countries. Jordan is a valuable strategic partner of the United States and the European Union in the heart of the Middle East. Amman’s strategic role is reflected in the military cooperation and joint global counterterrorism operations including as a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS and in meeting the overwhelming humanitarian needs of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees.
Jordan is also a pragmatic neighbor of Israel. The 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty has enabled water sharing arrangements between the two countries, security cooperation, Jordanian overflight of Israeli territory, and the conduct of joint Israel-Jordan exercises to respond to natural disasters. A representative case was the 2004 joint exercise to counter environmental effects of pollution in the Red Sea. The peace treaty has notably provided the context for enhanced economic, trade and tourism ties.
The kingdom has also served as honest broker in Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts in support of the two-state solution, always abiding with the late King Hussein’s principle that “Jordan should not be, cannot be, will not be a substitute for the Palestinians themselves as the major aggrieved party on the Arab side in a process that leads to peace”. Amman has served as credible intermediary for Israel and the Palestinians to suspend tensions at multiple occasions like for example in the old city of Jerusalem, particularly at the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif where the kingdom pursues a successful administration of religious funded schools favoring moderate religious education and religious tourism. Jordanian moderation guarantees co-existence of the three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem at a time when on the contrary, counties like Turkey funnel millions of dollars in charity projects in Jerusalem promoting extreme Islamic ideologies.
Reform Programs and Initiatives
Jordan’s moderation stems from the Hashemite rule that has confronted internal and external challenges maintaining stability that is conducive to national, and western interests for the region. The exceptionality and uniqueness of the Hashemite rule derives from its historical legacy, modernity, direct descendant of Prophet Mohammed and its posture as vanguard of reforms. Among significant reform initiatives was the “Jordan First-Al Urdun Awlan” campaign of 2002-2003, that articulated a comprehensive vision of economic and political reforms. The initiative provided the formation of a national committee to deal with different economic and political issues that ultimately led to the introduction of a parliamentary quota for women and the enactment of anti-corruption measures.
A blueprint for political, economic, and social reforms was provided by the 2005 Jordanian National Agenda that approached the reform process in a holistic, rather than a piecemeal, way. Its findings produced the “We Are All Jordan-Kulna al Urdun” document. The document was a clear attempt at political reform and selected a list of fifteen priorities that paved the way for significant legislative initiatives. A prominent initiative was the enactment of an anti-corruption law that established an anti-corruption committee with broad powers and included in its definition of corruption actions related to nepotism (wasta).
An additional reform program is the “Jordan 2025 National Vision and Strategy” launched in 2014that provides for economic reforms through policies and measures that aim at sustainable economic growth, support of small and medium-sized businesses, women’s participation in the labour market, financing mechanisms for public projects (PPP partnerships) and public investments on health, education and food security, digital economy, and green infrastructure. The coronavirus pandemic however has hit hard the kingdom’s economy to such an extent that economic reform initiatives are expected to bear fruits at a later stage taking into consideration the current global economic downturn considered to be the worst since the Great Depression. Jordan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted in 2020 by 2.3 percent after growing 2 percent in 2019 due to losses in state revenues because of fewer remittances and a weakened tourism market.
To cope with the direct negative effects of the pandemic on its state budget, Jordan received $396 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in May 2020 in the form ofemergency assistance. The amount of finance was specifically funneled to address the kingdom’s balance of payments needs and allow for higher spending on healthcare, and assistance to households and companies most affected by the pandemic. Despite that the IMF provided in March 2020 another multi-year $1.3 billion loan package to Jordan, the pandemic has caused at least a $1.5 billion shortfall in its balance of payments.
Modernization and Democratization
The Hashemite exceptionality legitimizes and ensures viability of rule over Jordan that constitutes a model of a modern Arab democratic country.The Jordanian leadership has taken over the last decade practical steps to unleash a deep political reform process to reflect Jordan’s vision of comprehensive reform, modernization, and development. Chief among reform measures was the introduction of a new constitution that came into force in 2011 and included amendments to 42 constitutional articles. Most prominent was the establishment of a constitutional court and an independent elections oversight commission, and the provision that the dissolution of the parliament entails the dissolution of the government. A major concession was also the curtailing of some of the King’s powers with most representative, the revoke of his power to cancel parliamentary elections. It is also noteworthy that the Jordanian leadership initiated in 2013 the Democratic Empowerment Programme called “Demoqrati” under the umbrella of the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, with the aim to instil the principles of active citizenship and empower individuals and democratic institutions.
In practical terms, the kingdom has demonstrated effectiveness and respect of democratic processes when, despite the pandemic, Amman proceeded with holding parliamentary elections in 2020. A recent poll conducted by the Centre for Strategic Studies at the University for Jordan in mid-March 2021 showed that 36% of Jordanians trust the current parliament, and 38% trust their electoral district parliament representatives, which constitutes the highest percentage of trust given to the parliament since 2014. The election of 100 new parliament members in the current House of Representatives guarantees renewal of political representation that is one of the main pillars of democracy. Elections were held in Jordan in a timely manner enhancing democratic governance and institutions. Jordanian elections were held in accordance with constitutional provisions when on the contrary at least 41 countries and territories around the world postponed national elections and referendums using the pandemic as a pretext according to data released by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
Overall, Jordan’s Hashemite leadership has unleashed a multidimensional reform process throughout the years that reflects the kingdom’s vision of comprehensive modernization and development in a way that can be translated into realities on the ground and provide a blueprint for a better future, not only for Jordanians, but for the people of the region.
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