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
Why Israel should support the establishment of the Middle Corridor
The governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan earlier in the year signed a declaration on improving the transportation potential throughout the region. Following that, the Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Georgian and Turkish foreign and transport ministries decided that there should be accelerated transport routes throughout the region, which will include the development of the Middle Corridor, a rail freight and ferry system that will link China with Europe.
It starts in Southeast Asia and China, and runs through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey before reaching southern and central Europe. This will permit trains to travel from China to Europe within 20-25 days, thus helping to reconnect the former Silk Road. As a former Israeli minister, I believe that Israel should be supportive of the establishment of the Middle Corridor, as it will help to strengthen the Abraham Accords if it is expanded to include Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the region.
The entire Middle East region used to be connected by train under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. There are a number of remnants of this wonderful train system in Israel, including the Ottoman train stations in Beersheba, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. These Ottoman train stations are historic landmarks from a bygone era when train travel across the Middle East was possible. Ottoman-era trains used to travel from Jaffa to Jerusalem, Haifa and other areas of the former Ottoman Turkish Empire, such as Medina and Damascus.
However, since Israel was declared to be independent, there has been no train travel between Israel and the Arab world. This was one of many causalities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet in the wake of the Abraham Accords, this all has the potential to change, as the Arab countries no longer view Israel to be the pariah that they once viewed it to be. If anything, the Persian Gulf countries now view Israel to be a partner in the struggle against Iran, as do the Turkic republics like Azerbaijan, who greatly disdain how the mullahs are treating the Azerbaijani population in the Islamic Republic.
Thus, if this Middle Corridor is built, we Israelis can try to connect onto it as well, as it will help to counter the mullahs in Tehran by creating a stronger connection between the Turkic republics, Israel and the Arab world. We can connect to it via Turkey by ferry, and then from there, have another set of trains going from Israel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia and from there, to the United Arab Emirates. In our times, this is within the realm of the possible.
This will thus help to greatly expand trade between China, the Turkic republics, Israel and the Arab countries. Already, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan know that it is necessary to have a train that crosses from Israel to the Gulf states. They are talking about it and thinking about it. They are starting with trucks with containers that I arranged, where they bring containers from Abu Dhabi to Israel crossing from Saudi Arabia to Jordan to Haifa. They could continue from there to Turkey via ship and from there to Europe and anywhere else.
That means that we can have a train traveling from Europe to Turkey and from there, ships can go to Haifa, and from Haifa to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and from there, to the Gulf states, and they can go back in the opposite direction. I am in Bulgaria now to check how I can make it more relevant. After that, a Saudi Arabian agreement with Israel can start with a new train, like what existed in the Ottoman times with the Hijaz Railway. The people of Hijaz want to make it happen again. This is in the plan of the Abraham Accords Agreement and it will happen in the future.
Qatar punctures FIFA’s political fantasy
If the Qatar World Cup proved anything, it’s that sports and politics are inseparable Siamese twins joined at the hip.
Politics popped up at every twist of the World Cup’s road, whether related to the right of freedom of expression of players, sports commentators and fans; anti-government protests in Iran; anti-Israeli sentiment among Qataris and Arabs; a backlash against Western, particularly German, critics of Qatar; or ultra-conservative religious rejection of soccer as a sport.
Qatari efforts to stage manage the intrusion of regional politics ranged from picking and choosing which protests fit its foreign policy agenda to seeking to ensure, where possible, that events elsewhere in the region would not overshadow or inflame passions during the World Cup.
Palestine is a case in point.
Amid escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Mohammad al-Emadi, the Qatari official handling Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, travelled to the region to ensure that it and Islamic Jihad, another Gaza-based organization, would not respond with rockets to Israeli use of lethal force against Palestinian militants on the West Bank.
Qatar feared that a response to last week’s killing of an Islamic Jihad commander on the West Bank and near-nightly Israeli raids could spark a renewed Israeli intervention in Gaza, already crippled by a 15-year-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
The Qatari pressure puts in a different perspective the Gulf state’s endorsement of expressions of support for the Palestinians during the World Cup in the form of pro-Palestinian flags and T-shirts and a refusal by Qatari and Arab fans to engage with Israeli reporters covering the tournament.
Despite refusing to follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan in recognizing Israel without a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Qatar has a long-standing working relationship with the Jewish state that serves the interests of both countries.
The Gulf state, often at Israel’s request, has pumped millions of dollars into paying government salaries in Gaza, providing aid to thousands of families affected by past wars, and funding fuel for the Strip’s power plant as well as infrastructure projects.
Moreover, Qatar became the first Gulf state to put money into Israel when it funded in 2006 a six-million-dollar stadium in the predominantly Israeli Palestinian town of Sakhnin, an investment long before the UAE-led Arab recognition of the Jewish state 14 years later.
Sakhnin and the Doha Stadium are home to Bnei Sakhnin, Israel’s most successful Israeli-Palestinian club.
As a result, allowing expressions of pro-Palestinian sentiment during the World Cup served multiple Qatari purposes.
It gave a release valve to Qataris, a minority in their own country, who were concerned about the impact on their society of the government’s live-and-let-live approach towards soccer fans with very different cultural values visiting their country during the World Cup.
Preventing fans from taking pro-LGBT paraphernalia such as One Love and rainbow-coloured armbands and shirts into stadiums served a similar purpose.
It also allowed Qataris to vent their frustration at perceived double standards in European and American criticism of Qatar’s rejection of LGBT rights, particularly after the German team’s hands-over-mouth gesture in protest against FIFA’s denial of their right to wear pro-LGBT armbands.
In one instance, Qataris wore pro-Palestinian armbands of their own to a match as a protest against the donning of a pro-LGBT One Love band by German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who attended the game.
Expressions of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli sentiment also suggested that Qatar’s refusal to recognise Israel was more in line with Arab public opinion than efforts to project the UAE-led recognition of the Jewish state as genuinely popular and indicative of a drop in support for the Palestinian cause.
If anything, recent polls show that public support for establishing diplomatic relations with Israel had fallen across the Arab and Muslim world, including in countries that normalized their ties to the Jewish state.
In Bahrain, 20 per cent of the population supports the accords, compared with 45 per cent in 2020, according to a Washington Institute for Near East Policy poll in July. Support in Saudi Arabia fell from 41 to 19 per cent. Even in the UAE, where normalisation had the greatest impact, support dropped to 25 per cent this year from 47 per cent in 2020.
For Qatari World Cup managers, Palestine was low-hanging fruit. Protest against the government in Tehran was a far trickier challenge.
A regional behemoth, Iran is a partner as well as a potential threat with which Qatar shares the world’s largest offshore gas field.
Maintaining relations with Iran has allowed Qatar, at times, to be a background mediator with the United States on issues like the moribund talks to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement.
Qatar feared that allowing stadiums to become venues of confrontation between opponents and supporters of the Iranian government could have persuaded Iran to rank the Gulf state, alongside Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States, as an instigator of sustained anti-government protests in which security forces have killed hundreds.
As a result, Qatar sought to prevent anti-government banners, T-shirts, and pre-revolution flags from entering stadia. The problem resolved itself when Iran was knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage.
Yet, the larger issue remains. The Qatar World Cup demonstrates that FIFA’s insistence that sports and politics can be separated amounts to a political fantasy.
More concerning than that, it enables FIFA and autocratic World Cup hosts like Qatar to decide what are convenient and inconvenient expressions of politics. That hardly makes for a level playing field, the starting point for any sport.
The challenges lie ahead Ankara’s decision to normalize relations with Cairo and Damascus
Although Egypt and Syria are at the bottom of the list of states with which Turkey intends to reconcile, the 10-year conflict with the two mentioned countries, which is accompanied by conflict and bloodshed in Syria, is on the verge of ending, and Turkey’s relations with Egypt and Syria are returning to normal.
Of course, the recent progress is due to the efforts of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey; Especially after the negotiators failed to close the last case of incompatibility between the two sides. The process of reconciliation began in 2021, in the city of Al-Ala in Saudi Arabia, and since then, Cairo and Ankara continued to strive and innovate in order to achieve reconciliation and compromise, and finally achieved positive and significant results.
However, the reconciliation between the two states was not at the leadership level; Until Qatar provided the ground for the meeting of Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Doha during the opening ceremony of the World Cup. The sitting of the Secretary General of the United Nations between the presidents of the two countries was not aimed at keeping them away from each other, and it seems that the Egyptians and the Turks had prepared for this occasion a few weeks ago, and the opening ceremony of the World Cup was held as a tribute to the mediation of Qatar, as the appointment was selected.
Regardless of political compliments, the reconciliation of Egypt and Turkey is very important; Because the continuation of tension between the two countries can lead to many risky developments. Relations between Egypt and Turkey became strained after the overthrow of the government of Mohamed Morsi in 2013. At that time, it became clear to political observers that this inconsistency will last for a long time and will not end soon; Especially since the late president of Egypt tried to run his country with the mentality of a one party rule. For this reason, the solidarity of the angry protesters with the security institutions played a central role in changing the situation in this state and marked the end of the Muslim Brotherhood government. Then, the Muslim Brotherhood made Istanbul its alternative capital and began its plans and efforts to return to power from there. This caused a crisis in the relations between Egypt and Turkey, and with the passage of time, the incompatibility between the two states increased.
However, in the past year and a half, the governments of Turkey and Egypt have held several meetings in order to resolve the dispute and end the disputed cases, and they were able to achieve significant successes in terms of security and media. Ankara more or less stopped the activity of the Egyptian opposition in Turkish territory, but the reconciliation between the two sides was not complete and the disagreement over how to manage the Libyan war crisis and the dispute over territorial waters in the Mediterranean remained unresolved.
In the case of Libya, Turkey supports one side of the conflict and Egypt supports the other side. Libya plays a vital role for Egypt in terms of security, and it is an important market for Turkey in terms of economy. In addition, Libya has many debts to pay to Turkey since the Gaddafi government.
On the other hand, after the discovery of gas fields in the Mediterranean waters, which are believed to contain a large amount of energy, there was a dispute between Egypt, Turkey and Greece over territorial waters in the Mediterranean, and the aforementioned states have not been able to find a solution to overcome this challenge.
The issue of ending the tension between Egypt and Turkey is very important, because achieving this goal may help end the war in Libya, and this in itself is reason enough to be optimistic about the current efforts for reconciliation between the two states. However, the price of this reconciliation will be paid by the opposition affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood outside of Egypt.
Of course, the path of reconciliation between Damascus and Ankara is extremely chaotic and risky. It is so difficult to reach the stage of reconciliation between the two states that, according to Erdogan, if he himself goes to Damascus, he will not be able to find a quick solution to end this complex crisis. Turkey and Syria have been fighting indirectly for more than 10 years. In addition, several military powers, including the forces of the Islamic Republic, Russia, the United States, foreign militias, the remnants of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the separatist Kurds of Turkey, and the Syrian armed opposition continue to invade Syria.
Meanwhile, the inability of Damascus to control parts of the Syrian territory has created a power vacuum in different parts of the country. Millions of Syrian refugees live abroad; In addition, millions of other citizens who have been forced to leave their homes have sought refuge in areas far from the war and are still displaced.
Therefore, any solution that is presented to end the crisis should consider the above points. Currently, all sides want the war in Syria to end, but the path to achieving this goal remains elusive.
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