Arab foreign ministers meeting falls short

Safaa Abdoun
8 Min Read

CAIRO: Efforts to end the Israeli assault on Gaza continue with an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday discussing an action plan to resolve the issue.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called on Wednesday for an immediate meeting of rival Palestinian factions, at the opening of an emergency session on how to deal with Israel’s Gaza onslaught.

“We call on our Palestinian brothers to hold an immediate reconciliation meeting, said Moussa at the opening of the meeting, referring to the Palestinians factions Hamas and Fatah.

Foreign ministers at the meeting agreed with Moussa and condemned the Palestinian division. Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, said Arab nations could not “extend their hand to the Palestinians as long as they remain divided between Hamas in Gaza and president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah in the occupied West Bank, according to AFP.

“It’s time for Palestinian factions to hold a decisive meeting that will lead to (forming) a government of national unity, he said.

The foreign ministers of the 22 Arab nations have come up with a draft resolution which condemns Israel’s violent attacks and calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Political analysts are, however, disappointed at the meeting’s outcome.

“Nothing practical came out of the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting, said Walid Kazziha, head of the political science department at the American University in Cairo. “On the one hand, they are condemning Israel and on the other hand they are attempting to strengthen the position of Egypt, he explained.

“There has to be a Palestinian unity for the issue to be resolved and there wasn’t any practical steps agreed upon which could bring about Palestinian unity, he added.

“[The meeting] fell short of the expectations of the Arab people, said Kazziha.

Diaa Rashwan, political analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies also echoes the same sentiments, saying that there “wasn’t any real action taken at the meeting.

The resolution was presented by Libya on behalf of the Arab League on the same day, Wednesday, to the United Nations’ Security Council which held an emergency meeting in order to discuss the draft resolution.

The draft resolution “strongly condemns all military attacks and the excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by Israel, the occupying power, which have led to the death and injury of scores of innocent Palestinian civilians, including women and children.

It calls for “an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect by both sides.

It also calls on Israel “to scrupulously abide by all of its obligations under international humanitarian law, particularly under the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in time of war.

However, it was immediately rejected by the United States as “unbalanced and “one-sided because it makes no mention of halting the Hamas rocketing of southern Israel which led to the Israeli offensive.

US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States is working very hard to achieve an immediate cease-fire implemented by both sides. He however added that Washington has not seen “any evidence yet that Hamas is willing to end its rocket attacks.

The best way to move forward, he said, would be to get an agreement among the parties for a cease-fire and humanitarian access to Gaza through diplomacy, “and for that agreement to be enshrined in a Security Council resolution if necessary.

Britain’s UN Ambassador John Sawers also called the resolution “one-sided but he told reporters a balanced resolution would have “a good chance of [gaining] support in the council.

At the start of the council meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned “the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas militants and the disproportionality of the continuing Israeli military operation.

He said he was “profoundly troubled that the council’s call for an end to the violence had gone unheeded and demanded that the parties “step back from the brink and observe an immediate cease-fire.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev defended Israel’s decision to attack in response to more than 300 rockets and mortars launched at Israeli cities and towns by “Hamas terrorists.

“Israel cannot, and will not, allow its citizens to be sitting ducks for terrorist attacks, she said. “Israel will continue to take all necessary measures to protect its citizens and stop terrorism.

Shalev said any resolution must be balanced, and “Hamas must not only stop the fire but must give guarantees that this is the end of the barrage of rockets and mortars over Israel.

“It was expected that the Security Council will not approve of a resolution condemning Israel and won’t approve a resolution or make a decision unless it is biased towards Israel, he added.

“With the UN Security Council taking no action until the resolution is amended, they are indirectly giving Israel a license to continue its attacks on Gaza, said Rashwan.

A delegation of Arab foreign ministers, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt and Morocco, will be flying to New York beginning of next week “to give a boost to the diplomatic activity here, said Sudan’s UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed, adding that therefore he doesn’t see an adoption of the resolution until Monday.

Moussa asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “to lead the diplomatic campaign in New York.

Arab citizens have been outraged by the inaction of their leaders towards the matter. There was a Gulf Cooperation Council summit involving Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates held in Muscat last Tuesday but has deferred any decision on Gaza to the Cairo meeting which discussed a Qatari proposal to hold an emergency Arab summit in Doha which has been deferred till after the Security Council’s meeting discussing the proposed resolution.

“Why would they decide to postpone the Arab summit till after the Security Council’s decision on the draft resolution, why wouldn’t they be in parallel which would even give a push to the Security Council, he said.

“Until now no real action has been taken nor were decisions made to stop the attacks on Gaza, he added.

“The funny thing is that the Arab foreign ministers have met on Wednesday to discuss the onslaught on Gaza while the European ministers met on Tuesday, said Rashwan. -Additional reporting by AFP and AP.

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