Image Credit: Gulf News

Israeli allegations against Syria are intended to divert world attention from its practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, Kuwait’s foreign minister has said. The minister also warned about rising visible despair in Middle East.

Commenting at the Middle East Institute on recent claims made by Israel that Syria had smuggled Scud missiles to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Shaikh Mohammad Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah said that "the last time I checked, they cannot be put in a small bag and slipped across the borders. It is huge and visible structure that you have to move."

"For that reason, the Israeli allegation that those huge missiles are crossing the borders into Lebanon, I think, they are trying to turn attention from the actions they are doing in [occupied] East Jerusalem ... confiscating and stealing more land, obliterating the history of the heritage of the Palestinian people by claiming some of these historical sites as Israeli sites and also by denying the United States the ability to resume its mission as the broker of the peace process, and refusing to abide by the quartet requirements for resumption of the peace process," Shaikh Mohammad said, Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported on Friday. "We think this is an obvious tactic on the part of the Israelis to hide the fact that what they are doing in Palestine is going to be absolutely unacceptable."

Asked about concerns over Irans nuclear programme, Shaikh Mohammad said that Tehran’s controversial nuclear stockpile must be handled within the confines of international legitimacy, multilateral diplomacy and within the confines of the United Nations" rather than through unilateral action, which could plunge the region in "total chaos."

"The issue is something that is of concern not only to the West, but also a concern to all the international society. The requirements of the IAEA and the Security Council resolutions that have been passed against Iran should be fully respected and implemented," he said. “Any action outside the conduct of international law will open the way for total chaos in the region. For that reason we have urged everybody that we should stick to diplomacy and the proper channels and within proper discussions within the United Nations."

According to Shaikh Mohammad, "everybody should be accountable to the United Nations and should be subject to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) requirements, and that includes Israel of course.”

“I think there is no military solution to this issue. There is only diplomatic, political solution and the whole world should be on board in confronting the dangers of nuclear proliferation and no country should be exempted from it," he said.

On the instability in Yemen and its implication on regional stability, the minister said that "Yemen is the heart of the Arabian peninsula.”

“It is a country that has faced external interference, external affairs, incitement of part of their population, be it on a security level or on a political level in terms. We at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have taken a position to tackle the fundamental causes of these disturbances. We look at poverty, the lack of jobs and disease as a source that breeds such radicalism on the Yemen Theatre," he said.

Shaikh Mohammad said that the GCC foreign ministers will convene in Yemen’s capital Sana’a to follow through with the development projects for Yemen.

"The problem with Yemen is again the issue of economic reform, political reform, corruption, disease and these are the issues we would like to help the Yemeni government tackle," he said.

Commenting on the effects of Greece’s economic crisis on the GCC, the minister said that the six-member alliance was very eager to implement and put on a fast track its two-pronged economic agreement, establishing the custom union and the common currency."

"Frankly .... We looked at the Greek drama unfolding and we started scratching our heads and said what went wrong and how can we learn from the mistakes of the European Union and how can we prevent similar thing from happening to us," he said.

"We are in a pause moment now. It is not that we are not serious. Because we are serious we do not want to jump into an arrangement that theoretically looks excellent on paper but, when put into practice, produces major economic dislocation."

About investing in Iraq, Shaikh Mohammed said "We have indicated explicitly that as to the compensation that we received from the United Nations, we are willing to use this compensation to invest in Iraq’s infrastructure. We are currently in discussion with the Iraqi government along with the British and the Turkish governments to develop the southern part of Iraq as an industrial zone. I know there are a lot of private Kuwaiti investors in Iraq. When we talk about futures and opportunities, I think Iraq is the most prominent in terms of an environment that would produce very handsome returns for investors." he said.

Kuwait has included Iraq in its development plans regarding a railway plan in the GCC that would comprise Iraq, a move that would help integrate Baghdad economically within the GCC market through land transportation, the minister said.

"We have recently opened a direct route from Kuwait to multiple cities in Iraq flights on a daily basis and there are other GCC countries that are doing that. This is what Iraq is looking for, looking for an opportunity to trade, to have exchange, to reinforce economic viability and support its stability," he said.

However, the minister was not so optimistic about the Middle East peace process, saying that “soaring expectations for an agreement have been shattered."

Expectations among Arabs had been high after President Barack Obama nominated Senator George Mitchell as special Middle East envoy and Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and gave following "important" speeches in Istanbul and Cairo.

“The level of expectations had risen to such an extent that everyone was thinking that finally peace is around the corner, only for these expectations to be shattered when [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu decided to take a different path," Shaikh Mohammed added.

"We supported President Mahmoud Abbas to resume the proximity talks only to see a couple of weeks later Israel announcing that it would build 1,600 units in [occupied] East Jerusalem, in response to the Arab extended hand for the resumption of the peace talks. That is also quite expectation-shattering," he said.

However, Shaikh Mohammad said that Arabs would continue to endorse the Arab Peace Initiative and support the position of the Obama administrations, especially on the issue of the Israeli colonies.

"We think the issue of settlements is central to the peace process and the proximity talks are something we support as a proxy to the direct discussion that must include a settlement [colony] freeze,” Shaikh Mohammad said. However, he warned that “expectations are not positive.”

“Despair is visible and rising. We should be concerned,” he said.