Amr Moussa pushes Arab reconciliation

Arab League chief tours ME capitals in effort to promote solidarity, implement Saudi peace initiative.

Amr Moussa 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Amr Moussa 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Arab League Chief Amr Moussa is touring Mideast capitals in an effort to further reconciliation efforts among deeply divided countries in the Arab world, a spokesman for the Arab League confirmed on Monday. Moussa visited Damascus on Monday and had already visited Yemen, Jordan and Qatar in recent days to promote Arab reconciliation and "clear the air" among countries, spokesman Abdel Alim al-Abyad told The Jerusalem Post. "Solidarity is very important to face the challenges of our time, political, economic and other," he said. "We live in dangerous times. There are so many challenges, so many risks to the region. That's why we should unite and try to strengthen solidarity among Arab nations." The biggest challenge facing Arab countries was implementing the Arab peace initiative, which Israel has yet to respond to officially, he said. Moussa is touring the countries to build on Saudi King Abdullah's initiative to achieve reconciliation, which he announced at the recent Kuwait economic summit, said Hisham Youssef, Moussa's chief of staff, according to a pan-Arab newspaper on Monday. "The issue of clearing the air in the Arab world is very important and is taking place within the context of the crisis witnessed in inter-Arab relations and the state of division in the Arab world," Youssef said, according to the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper. When asked whether Moussa had received indications there had been progress towards reconciliation during his tour, Youssef responded: "There are still difficulties and the issue requires concerted efforts." Concerted efforts were needed not only from the secretary general, he said, but from all Arab countries. Separately, a breakthrough in reconciliation was made on Sunday when Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Mugrin bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud delivered a verbal message to Syrian President Bashar Assad about the importance of "consultation and coordination" between them. Relations between the two countries have been strained since the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had Saudi citizenship. "It is a reconciliatory move," said Gamal Abdel Gawad, head of the international relations unit at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "There hasn't been Syrian-Saudi contact at this level for a number of years," he said. Arab solidarity is always a demand of the Arab public, which often puts pressure on their governments to unite, Gawad said. There is also a belief that lack of unity among Arab states limits their ability with regard to negotiation and conflict resolution, he said. There is also a sense that new developments in the region such as a new American administration, a change of leadership in Israel and the aftermath of war in Gaza, "require a high degree of Arab coordination and solidarity," he added. The divisions in the Arab world were made particularly clear during Israel's recent military conflict in the Gaza Strip. Those who supported the Palestinian Authority - such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - were in one camp, while Syria and Qatar, who supported or were sympathetic to Hamas, were in a second, rival camp. In fact, it is the divisions between Hamas and Fatah that are feeding on divisions in the Arab world, Gawad said. And now that the war is over, it was very unlikely that the reconstruction of Gaza would take place while Palestinians are divided. While many countries such as Saudi Arabia prefer that their pledges go to the Palestinian Authority, which they recognize as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, it appears that Qatar would favor giving the money to its rival Hamas in the Gaza Strip. "The divide among Palestinians is to a great extent a function of the Arab divide," he said. "Each side is supported by one of the Arab blocs. This deepens the divide among the Palestinians, and the likelihood of Palestinian reconciliation is very limited as long as Arab states are divided among themselves." AP contributed to this report.