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Reconciliation among the Gulf States: New concern for the US & others?

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It was 5th June of 2017, when Saudi Arabia, declared a ban on Qatar and its registered planes, ships and naval facilities from using Saudi’s airspace and sea routes, also, imposed sanctions against the products and markets of Qatar. Eventually, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and many other gulf countries and some African countries enmeshed themselves in this diplomatic crisis, quote-un-quote ‘Qatar Diplomatic Crisis’. On the other side, Turkey, Iran and Libya (Tripoli) set forth their clinches in the side of Qatar.

Many political uncertainties and dilemmas, however, took place among the two parties during the crisis which, put forward many questions and possibilities of getting experience with the Gulf crisis, could led them to a probable war. By the time, Saudi Arabia and Qatar held them in and their relations have been coming to an overture of peace.  On the 4th January 2021, Saudi Arabia and Qatar entered into an agreement of calling a halt of this diplomatic crisis by the influences of brokers, Kuwait and the US. Consequently, Saudi Arabia conceded to reopen its border for Qatar, an agreement and final communique got signed, on 5 January 2021 following a GCC summit at Al-Ula, between these two gulf states.

However, on 20 January 2021, Egypt and Qatar have mutually agreed and signed a reconciliation deal between them(selves) to continue their diplomatic relations in the further time ‘under probation’. Besides, UAE and Bahrain also declared, reopening of their borders for Qatar, and revoked their embargo on land, air and naval blockade on this country. Their accusing of Qatar of supporting terrorism and becoming too close to Iran also got resolved anyway.

Focusing on another diplomatic progression of the gulf region, Qatar called Iran to engage in diplomacy with the Gulf States. On behalf of this, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said, “We still believe this should happen. This is also a desire that’s shared by other GCC countries. My government is hopeful about Iran and its Arab neighbours”. Replying to and welcoming the co-operative Foreign policy of Qatar and FM Al-Thani, Javad Zarif, Irani Foreign Minister, twitted and said, ” the solution to our challenges lies in the collaboration to jointly form a strong region’: peaceful, stable, prosperous and free from global or regional hegemony”.  Javad Zarif also showed a path of peaceful cohesion between/among the Iran and Gulf states.

This normalisation of Saudi led-coalition and Qatar laid reconciliation bare and opened the doors of peaceful cohesion between Riyadh and Ankara. Since 2017, Ankara has been talking against KSA staying against the Saudi led coalition’s embargo on Qatar but after the mutual agreement and peaceful reconciliation between Riyadh and Doha on 5th January, it is also on the opinion of normalising relation with Riyadh. Moreover, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi made not only a serious and hot relation but also led the relation at the lowest level between Ankara and Riyadh.

Emphasizing on the restoration ties with Doha, Saudi led-coalition has come to an end of the embargo which is overwhelmingly welcomed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He said, “Very beneficial. We hope that our position in Gulf cooperation will be re-established. This will make gulf cooperation stronger”. Qatari special spokesman Mutlaq al-Qahtani replied in a very positive way and accorded to play a role of mediator between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

As a result, Qatar is playing a great role as mediator of normalising the past ongoing serious relations among the Gulf States. The reconciliation, what was infeasible two years ago, now, is very much appeared to all and leads Arab states to good and peaceful cooperation in the future. If it sustains, whether, in the name of liberalism or any other political ideology, it must create a powerful regionalism among these countries. But in the sphere of Iran and Saudi Arabia, it will reveal many dilemmas and this reconciliation may not happen at all.

Saudi Arabia is, more or less, emphasizing on the tourist economy nowadays alongside signifying the importance of exporting petroleum, iron ore, natural gas, gold, and copper. Though the reconciliation of the KSA with other Gulf States and Turkey seems like a U-turn of Saudi Arabia, it will help Saudi to have a good outcome from its future foreign policy.

In the context of Iran, it is suffering a lot from the losing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and Qasem Suleimani, even; it has not overcome the contretemps yet. Besides, the new president of the US, Joe Biden, is keeping Iran incommoded situation rather than going beyond the policy of Trump. Moreover, Iran’s reconciliation with the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia might not happen only because of the interest of the United States.

Looking at the US’ concern, the US must find itself in the dilemma about the middle-east policy which was narrowly emphasized (in a lesser persuasive way) by the policy of Trump. Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again, non-interventionist, isolationist, and protectionist’ policies more or less isolated USA from the position of hegemonic and unipolar role in the world structure or quote-un-quote world system. He was always concerned with ‘America first’ rather than using its ‘military-industrial complex’ in the outside world like middle-east. Also, his government withdrew from the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran and increased sanctions against Iran which triggered the Persian Gulf crisis persuasively.

In consequence, Joe Biden has to take the challenge of bringing back Iran to the nuclear deal and fulfil the foreign interest of Iran otherwise Iran will remain a throat-thorn against the US in the middle-east. If this possible regionalism grows rapidly and the Gulf States along with Iran and Turkey, establish a concord among themselves, it must be coming as a regional power. In this contemporary multipolar system of the world politics, the US is (still) remaining as isolationist but the outcomes of Biden’s new Foreign policy will determine the factors. 

Kawsar Uddin Mahmud is pursuing his BSS degree in International Relations at the University of Dhaka. Besides, he regularly writes Op-Ed columns for several Bangladeshi newspapers and international journals. His areas of interest are International Politics and Policies including Media Politics, Geopolitics, Strategic Studies, Political Theories and Political Islam

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Middle East

Process to draft Syria constitution begins this week

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The process of drafting a new constitution for Syria will begin this week, the UN Special Envoy for the country, Geir Pedersen, said on Sunday at a press conference in Geneva.

Mr. Pedersen was speaking following a meeting with the government and opposition co-chairs of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, who have agreed to start the process for constitutional reform.

The members of its so-called “small body”, tasked with preparing and drafting the Constitution, are in the Swiss city for their sixth round of talks in two years, which begin on Monday. 

Their last meeting, held in January, ended without progress, and the UN envoy has been negotiating between the parties on a way forward.

“The two Co-Chairs now agree that we will not only prepare for constitutional reform, but we will prepare and start drafting for constitutional reform,” Mr. Pedersen told journalists.

“So, the new thing this week is that we will actually be starting a drafting process for constitutional reform in Syria.”

The UN continues to support efforts towards a Syrian-owned and led political solution to end more than a decade of war that has killed upwards of 350,000 people and left 13 million in need of humanitarian aid.

An important contribution

The Syrian Constitutional Committee was formed in 2019, comprising 150 men and women, with the Government, the opposition and civil society each nominating 50 people.

This larger group established the 45-member small body, which consists of 15 representatives from each of the three sectors.

For the first time ever, committee co-chairs Ahmad Kuzbari, the Syrian government representative, and Hadi al-Bahra, from the opposition side, met together with Mr. Pedersen on Sunday morning. 

He described it as “a substantial and frank discussion on how we are to proceed with the constitutional reform and indeed in detail how we are planning for the week ahead of us.”

Mr. Pedersen told journalists that while the Syrian Constitutional Committee is an important contribution to the political process, “the committee in itself will not be able to solve the Syrian crisis, so we need to come together, with serious work, on the Constitutional Committee, but also address the other aspects of the Syrian crisis.”

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North Africa: Is Algeria Weaponizing Airspace and Natural Gas?

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In a series of shocking and unintelligible decisions, the Algerian Government closed its airspace to Moroccan military and civilian aircraft on September 22, 2021, banned French military planes from using its airspace on October 3rd, and decided not to renew the contract relative to the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which goes through Morocco and has been up and running since 1996–a contract that comes to end on October 31.

In the case of Morocco, Algeria advanced ‘provocations and hostile’ actions as a reason to shut airspace and end the pipeline contract, a claim that has yet to be substantiated with evidence. Whereas in the case of France, Algeria got angry regarding visa restrictions and comments by French President Emmanuel Macron on the Algerian military grip on power and whether the North African country was a nation prior to French colonization in 1830.

Tensions for decades

Algeria has had continued tensions with Morocco for decades, over border issues and over the Western Sahara, a territory claimed by Morocco as part of its historical territorial unity, but contested by Algeria which supports an alleged liberation movement that desperately fights for independence since the 1970s.

With France, the relation is even more complex and plagued with memories of colonial exactions and liberation and post-colonial traumas, passions and injuries. France and Algeria have therefore developed, over the post-independence decades, a love-hate attitude that quite often mars otherwise strong economic and social relations.

Algeria has often reacted to the two countries’ alleged ‘misbehavior’ by closing borders –as is the case with Morocco since 1994—or calling its ambassadors for consultations, or even cutting diplomatic relations, as just happened in August when it cut ties with its western neighbor.

But it is the first-time Algeria resorts to the weaponization of energy and airspace. “Weaponization” is a term used in geostrategy to mean the use of goods and commodities, that are mainly destined for civilian use and are beneficial for international trade and the welfare of nations, for geostrategic, political and even military gains. As such “weaponization” is contrary to the spirit of free trade, open borders, and solidarity among nations, values that are at the core of common international action and positive globalization.

What happened?

Some observers advance continued domestic political and social unrest in Algeria, whereby thousands of Algerians have been taking to the streets for years to demand regime-change and profound political and economic reforms. Instead of positively responding to the demands of Algerians, the government is probably looking for desperate ways to divert attention and cerate foreign enemies as sources of domestic woes. Morocco and France qualify perfectly for the role of national scapegoats.

It may be true also that in the case of Morocco, Algeria is getting nervous at its seeing its Western neighbor become a main trade and investment partner in Africa, a role it can levy to develop diplomatic clout regarding the Western Sahara issue. Algeria has been looking for ways to curb Morocco’s growing influence in Africa for years. A pro-Algerian German expert, by the name of Isabelle Werenfels, a senior fellow in the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, even recommended to the EU to put a halt to Morocco’s pace and economic clout so that Algeria could catch up. Weaponization may be a desperate attempt to hurt the Moroccan economy and curb its dynamism, especially in Africa.

The impact of Algeria’s weaponization of energy and airspace on the Moroccan economy is minimal and on French military presence in Mali is close to insignificant; however, it shows how far a country that has failed to administer the right reforms and to transfer power to democratically elected civilians can go.

In a region, that is beleaguered by threats and challenges of terrorism, organized crime, youth bulge, illegal migration and climate change, you would expect countries like Algeria, with its geographic extension and oil wealth, to be a beacon of peace and cooperation. Weaponization in international relations is inacceptable as it reminds us of an age when bullying and blackmail between nations, was the norm. The people of the two countries, which share the same history, language and ethnic fabric, will need natural gas and unrestricted travel to prosper and grow and overcome adversity; using energy and airspace as weapons is at odds with the dreams of millions of young people in Algeria and Morocco that aspire for a brighter future in an otherwise gloomy economic landscape. Please don’t shatter those dreams!

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Middle East

Breaking The Line of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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The conflict between Israel-Palestine is a prolonged conflict and has become a major problem, especially in the Middle East region.

A series of ceasefires and peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine that occurred repeatedly did not really “normalize” the relationship between the two parties.

In order to end the conflict, a number of parties consider that the two-state solution is the best approach to create two independent and coexistent states. Although a number of other parties disagreed with the proposal, and instead proposed a one-state solution, combining Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big state.

Throughout the period of stalemate reaching an ideal solution, the construction and expansion of settlements carried out illegally by Israel in the Palestinian territories, especially the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also continued without stopping and actually made the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis increasingly eroded, and this could jeopardize any solutions.

The attempted forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah district, which became one of the sources of the conflict in May 2021, for example, is an example of how Israel has designed a system to be able to change the demographics of its territory by continuing to annex or “occupy” extensively in the East Jerusalem area. This is also done in other areas, including the West Bank.

In fact, Israel’s “occupation” of the eastern part of Jerusalem which began at the end of the 1967 war, is an act that has never received international recognition.

This is also confirmed in a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council Numbers 242, 252, 267, 298, 476, 478, 672, 681, 692, 726, 799, 2334 and also United Nations General Assembly Resolutions Number 2253, 55/130, 60/104, 70/89, 71/96, A/72/L.11 and A/ES-10/L.22 and supported by the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 on Legal Consequences of The Construction of A Wall in The Occupied Palestine Territory which states that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli “occupation”.

1 or 2 country solution

Back to the issue of the two-state solution or the one-state solution that the author mentioned earlier. The author considers that the one-state solution does not seem to be the right choice.

Facts on the ground show how Israel has implemented a policy of “apartheid” that is so harsh against Palestinians. so that the one-state solution will further legitimize the policy and make Israel more dominant. In addition, there is another consideration that cannot be ignored that Israel and Palestine are 2 parties with very different and conflicting political and cultural identities that are difficult to reconcile.

Meanwhile, the idea of ​​a two-state solution is an idea that is also difficult to implement. Because the idea still seems too abstract, especially on one thing that is very fundamental and becomes the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, namely the “division” of territory between Israel and Palestine.

This is also what makes it difficult for Israel-Palestine to be able to break the line of conflict between them and repeatedly put them back into the status quo which is not a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The status quo, is in fact a way for Israel to continue to “annex” more Palestinian territories by establishing widespread and systematic illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In fact, a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council have explicitly and explicitly called for Israel to end the expansion of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territory and require recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the region.

Thus, all efforts and actions of Israel both legislatively and administratively that can cause changes in the status and demographic composition in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must continue to be condemned. Because this is a violation of the provisions of international law.

Fundamental thing

To find a solution to the conflict, it is necessary to look back at the core of the conflict that the author has mentioned earlier, and the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to encourage Israel to immediately end the “occupation” that it began in 1967, and return the settlements to the pre-Islamic borders 1967 In accordance with UN Security Council resolution No. 242.

But the question is, who can stop the illegal Israeli settlements in the East Jerusalem and West Bank areas that violate the Palestinian territories?

In this condition, international political will is needed from countries in the world, to continue to urge Israel to comply with the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and also the UN Security Council Resolutions.

At the same time, the international community must be able to encourage the United Nations, especially the United Nations Security Council, as the organ that has the main responsibility for maintaining and creating world peace and security based on Article 24 of the United Nations Charter to take constructive and effective steps in order to enforce all United Nations Resolutions, and dare to sanction violations committed by Israel, and also ensure that Palestinian rights are important to protect.

So, do not let this weak enforcement of international law become an external factor that also “perpetuates” the cycle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It will demonstrate that John Austin was correct when he stated that international law is only positive morality and not real law.

And in the end, the most fundamental thing is that the blockade, illegal development, violence, and violations of international law must end. Because the ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict is only a temporary solution to the conflict.

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