SHARM El-SHEIKH: With an oblique reference to US President George Bush’s keynote speech during the opening plenary on Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that in the West there was a trend to build a negative image of Islam. Anger and turmoil, he said, result when we see an Israeli tank on Arab land.
“Take the Iranian nuclear capability . did anybody ever raise the issue of Israeli nuclear capability?
In a heated session titled “Fresh Strategies for Stability at the World Economic Forum, Aboul Gheit and Mohamed Elbaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), garnered applause as they lay down their views on the region’s hot topics.
“Instability is due to the lack of political will to solve the problems, said Aboul Gheit. “The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the cause of everything bad happening in the region.
He emphasized that he will not write off the issues of lack of social and economic needs of people, the need to protect human rights and democracy, but “we must go to the root causes . I am talking here about settlements in occupied territories.
Responding to the moderator’s question on whether Turkey should be a model for the Muslim world, Ali Babacan, foreign minister and chief negotiator of Turkey said that his country has been going through a political and social transformation spurred also by the fact that it is on its path to the European Union.
“We have managed to preserve our identity and at the same time implement more and more the values of the Western world when it comes to the rule of law, fundamental rights, tolerance and diversity. all implemented by a predominantly Muslim population, he said.
He also referred to the fact that Turkey is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference whose recently renewed charter has seen acceptance by member countries to the principals of transparency, accountability and human rights.
“Many countries in the region are in need of change and reforms but imposing them from the outside is not the right way, he said, highlighting that another major obstacle to stability is the huge income disparity between and within the various countries in the region, all of which must develop internal dynamics for change through engaging civil society and the media. Change must be homegrown, he said.
The session heated up again when Elbaradei was asked to comment on Iran’s nuclear situation.
“I will talk to anybody I need to talk to, he said, echoing Babacan’s comment on that diplomatic means and dialogue with Iran are the best way to solve problems and that isolationist policies have failed.
Elbaradei denounced the huge wealth disparity in the world where a small minority owns the 50 percent of the wealth, while 850 million people go to bed hungry every night.
“People need to have a say in governance, who is governing them and how.We have an asymmetric system of security in the region and a 40-year occupation of Palestine cannot lead to modernity. People are repressed and hopeless.
“Poverty is the most powerful weapon of mass destruction, he said.Giving a US perspective, Brian Baird, a democratic congressman from Washington was introspective, saying that one of the shortcomings of the US is lack of insight into other cultures. “We don’t even understand that there is something to respect, he said.
“When theory and reality are not consistent, this reduces our moral integrity.
Referring to the prospects of dialogue with Iran and Hamas, he said that there is a difference between talking and appeasement and that the US must not conflate the two.
We have a responsibility not to abandon the region after the chaos that we have created, he said.