Arabs write off Rome meeting, blame Washington

Jonathan Wright
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Arabs on Thursday wrote off the Rome meeting on Lebanon as a disappointment and accused Washington of subverting the will of the world for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah. But some saw hope in signs that Washington was isolated and might have to change its position if its Israeli allies fail to make progress in their military campaign in south Lebanon. The Rome conference of 15 governments, excluding Israel, Syria and Iran, did not call for an immediate ceasefire, as the major Arab countries had wanted. Instead participants promised to immediately start work to try to stop the fighting. Diplomats say the United States wants to give Israel more time to hit Hezbollah militarily so that the movement is more likely to accept U.S. and Israeli terms for a settlement. But Arab governments say the cost in civilian lives is too high and talks on a settlement should follow the ceasefire. I see that there is a general trend now to isolate America in one way or another because there was a strong consensus on a ceasefire, said Mohamed Habib, the deputy leader of Egypt s Muslim Brotherhood movement. It was clear that the U.S. administration was on one side and the international community was on the other side, which shows that there is a split and it may widen, he added. An Arab diplomat who took part in the meetings said that in fact the United States had support from Britain and Canada, diluting the extent of its isolation. The Canadians took a very strong position condemning Hezbollah and not saying a word about Israel. The others were concerned about humanitarian problems, he added. Papers across the Arab world described the Rome meeting as a failure and many blamed Washington for the outcome. Washington s position in Rome reinforced the widespread Arab view that the United States will support Israeli military actions under most circumstances. The Rome conference was never going to succeed as long as the major powers insist on putting the cart before the horse with conditions that will allow the aggression to continue, said the Saudi daily Okaz. Awad Al-Zufairi, Kuwaiti politician and deputy head of the Gulf country s unofficial Umma Party, said: Our reaction is clear. It is the continuous policy of America to support Israel. We think that America is wrong to support Israel. Israel is an aggressive nation that kills innocent people including children and women. What s going on in Gaza and Lebanon is a clear evidence of that. Ali Ahmad Al-Baghli, a former Kuwaiti oil minister, said Kuwaitis were very sorry to hear the result of the Rome talks. Lebanese people were expecting something to be done towards the Israeli atrocities … towards civilian targets, he said. George Ishaq, coordinator of the opposition Kefaya (Enough) movement in Egypt, was worried by the proposal to send European forces to south Lebanon, saying: We are warning our people that the Iraq scenario will be repeated. Habib said the U.S. position would change if Israel suffered high losses, saying: If fate turns against the Zionist entity … then America will be the first to ask for a ceasefire.

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