Cairo and Riyadh must overcome disputes, strategists say

Egypt returning as an influential actor in Middle East

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Current developments and regional threats make it obligatory for the two strong wings of the Arab region, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to overcome any bilateral disputes and conflict of interests and act as a driving force to give the Arabs a momentum and vision to help solve the devastating conflicts across the region, said Amr Mousa, Egyptian politician and diplomat and former secretary-general of the Arab League.

“It’s not accepted by all means that the two strong Arab powers remain relatively absent while other players such as Iran, Turkey, Russia and the US keep having the final say on regional disputes and the Middle East’s future,” Mousa told a regional strategic conference held in Abu Dhabi.

Mousa told the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate organised by the Emirates Policy Centre, in cooperation with the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Atlantic Council, he was optimistic regarding Egypt’s coming back as a heavyweight influential actor in the Middle East.

He said Egyptians collectively realise now that hard decisions had to be made for continuity and moving forward during these hard times in the region.

Mousa added it is obvious a huge shift has taken place in the Arab world and there is no chance of returning to the old practices. “Egypt had to face a seven-decade-long legacy of mistakes where priorities got pushed aside and people were prevented from having a true opportunity in being part of the decision-making process in their own country. This is being changed now,”.he said.

Dr Khalid Al Dakhil, Professor of Political Sociology at King Saud University and columnist at the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat, admitted the Saudi-Egyptian dispute exists over several issues emerging from the Arab Spring turmoil era, but we don’t know the real picture as much is going on between the two countries behind closed doors. However, the two have no other option than cooperation at this critical moment.

Criticising those who compare the Iranian Islamic revolution to the French revolution, Dr Al Dhakhil explained Iran wants to send the whole region to the 3rd Hijri century and its regime only exports sectarianism and armed militias.

Dr Mahmoud Jebril, president of the National Forces Alliance and former Prime Minister of Libya, said the Libyan model is a bold example of the accumulative distortion that affected the structure of the national state over decades, and culminated in failing to achieve any sustained development or responding to the growing political and economic needs of the youth.

Countries which so far survived the bitter experience of the Arab Spring must learn from the Libyan lesson and the Syrian and Yemeni tragedies well.

“National security has become parallel to development and legitimacy is now linked to public participation in policy-making more than ever”, he added.

Dr Nassif Hitti, Professor of International Relations at Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon, and former ambassador to the Arab League, said ambitious regional players stepped in to fill the political space. “This could lead some Arab countries to face a failure-state fate scenario. An agreement between the Arabs and the Islamic world inspired by the Helsinki model is necessary in light of growing Iranian and Turkish threats,” he suggested.

Mushreq Abbas, columnist and director of Al Hayat newspaper’s Iraq office, said the US invasion of Iraq ignited all the radical shifts witnessed by the region. Lack of unified and clear Arab strategy to deal with post-invasion Iraq also contributed a lot to the calamity of the crisis there, as Iran moved swiftly to fill the power vacuum after a green-light from Washington.

“However, Iran opposed any Shite political experience and refused to give such practice a chance to grow in Iraq, for Tehran knows the deeply-rooted Iraqi civilisation will always produce national loyalty,” he added.

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