IsDB Draws Roadmap to Enlist the Poor in Production

A man walks past an Emirates Islamic Bank branch in Bank street in Dubai, October 18, 2011. Two years after the Dubai debt crisis erupted, contributing to a wave of loan restructurings across the Gulf, those restructurings may be entering a more difficult phase as banks become reluctant to extend maturities further. Picture taken October 18, 2011. To match Analysis GULF-DEBT/RESTRUCTURING REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTR2SURT

London – Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) President Bandar Hajjar has launched a roadmap to resolve social and economic problems that are facing the world. “Confronting poverty is not restricted to providing food, clothes and housing but transforming the poor to a productive individual,” Hajjar told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The newspapers asked, “You became an official president of IsDB last October and 100 days later you spoke about a roadmap for the coming five years. What is this plan?”

Hajjar replied that, “After considering the internal and foreign challenges as well as the economic, political and social difficulties I put a roadmap based on this given and it clarifies how the bank will operate within these five years to be capable of dealing efficiently with these challenges.”

“Are there specific fields that top the list of priorities in your five-year plan?” asked Asharq Al-Awsat.

“There are three strategic goals: joint comprehensiveness through fulfilling needs of the poor and marginalized, correlation to achieve sustainable growth via reinforcing joint investment and expertise exchange and the third goal is supporting Islamic banking industry,” replied Hajjar.

When asked about the bank announcing that it will become a decentralized bank, IsDB president said that the decentralization means transferring some operations from the bank’s main headquarters in Jeddah to regional offices. He continued that the distribution of offices on regions serves the purpose of activating their role and permitting them to perform their tasks efficiently.

“The regional office is located in a certain country but several neighboring countries benefit from it,” added Hajjar.

“Some see that the IsDB needs to exert extra efforts to develop the Islamic banking industry – economic updates are racing while finding solutions that comply with the sharia is being a slow process,” said the newspaper.

Hajjar commented that “Innovating more long-term financial tools and reducing short-term funding as well as expanding bonds-funding and developing the institutions of Zakah, Wakaf, Qard Hasan and others are all a must.”

The newspaper asked, “In the past weeks, you received delegations from Russia and discussed cooperation in the field of Islamic banking. What is the role of IsDB in this segment?”

IsDB president replied that “There is a huge interest in Islamic banking in Russia. In May 2016, IsDB signed a MoU with the Central Bank of Russia and other Russian banks. These memorandums allow t

he exchange of expertise and knowledge in the aim of developing the segment of Islamic baking and underpinning cooperation opportunities in diverse areas of work.”

“What about the partnership forum between the public and private sectors that you are willing to establish in Riyadh? Why did you highlight the private sector?” asked the newspaper.

Hajjar answer came as follows, “A glance on the necessary investment in infrastructure, worldwide, shows that it is estimated as USD3.3 trillion annually. These essential needs and projects require huge investment and various experiences that’s why it is a keypoint that the private and public sector join efforts to implement them. The world countries are working on developing partnership forms to make thereof more efficient. Why now? Because distributing risks on several parties and providing the capital, knowledge and experience alleviates financial burdens on the public sector.”

Roadmap for Stability in the Mediterranean

Barcelona- Amid remarkable concerns on the survival of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the meeting of the union’s ministers of foreign affairs or their representatives in Barcelona came to adopt a roadmap for the sake of the region.

The roadmap stressed three main goals: contributing to the regional stability, enhancing the Mediterranean integration, and investing in human development.

The meeting also included a two-day forum entitled “Youth to serve stability and growth in the Mediterranean”, which hosted 500 people from all the Mediterranean countries to partake in dozens of symposiums and workshops.

In his opening speech, Fathallah Sijilmass, secretary general of the union asserted that all the convening parties in Barcelona have agreed on the importance of reaching regional solutions to confront current challenges.

He added that security requires growth and that all parties have to work hard to reach effective solutions for their serious challenges including illegal migrations, terrorism, and fundamentalism, by enhancing economic and social development, providing work opportunities for youths and by encouraging dialogue and mutual understanding.

The Union, which joins conflicting parties, faced many threatening challenges like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Gaza wars, and the Arab Spring, but succeeded in coping with them; the Union has launched projects of humanitarian and economic growth, and maintained its main mission as a platform for the regional dialogue.

During the meeting, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini considered that only greater regional integration can reduce the instability of the Mediterranean region and solve conflicts.

The Mediterranean parties have agreed that the Union’s projects of human and economic development have been the perfect response to the security challenges and the migration waves.

Mogherini said that the Union has adopted 47 regional projects with a budget of EUR5.5 including 25 projects, which were already launched. Till date, the Union’s budget has been covered by the European Union and the member states.
However, ministers who gathered in Barcelona have agreed to open doors for external funding, which reflect the member states’ will in expanding the General Secretariat’s efforts.

A diplomatic source that attended the meeting told Asharq Al-Awsat that this Union cannot solve the region’s crises and that it is not assigned to. However, he considered that the Union can efficiently contribute to solutions as it is the only platform that maintained dialogue and communication lines among parties despite the major obstacles.

The European source added that the region has faced a phase of uncertainty because of the unclear policies of the new U.S. administration. He concluded that while waiting for the regional and international solutions for the region’s crises, the Union will maintain its efforts in implementing projects to help women and youths in the east and south Mediterranean in cooperation with the regions’ governments.

Kerry Arrives, Yemen Anticipates

Saudi

Riyadh- In a visit that seems to be the last attempt before departing the White House, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive today, Sunday, to Riyadh in order to hold discussions with high rank Saudi officials and regional and international leaders to reach a political solution for the Yemeni crisis and to discuss the latest occurrences in the region.

The U.S. Secretary of State is trying to give a political push to the Yemeni roadmap led by U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed—this roadmap is a modified version of the concepts provided by Kerry during the quadrilateral meeting held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia one month ago.

The new roadmap, however, did not garner the approval of legal authorities that see it as a drift from the basic references: the Gulf Initiative, outcomes of the Yemeni national dialogue and the U.N. Security Council resolution 2216.

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi stated that the Yemeni government and leadership represented in Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi are anticipating a new U.N. draft to achieve peace. “Rebels are required to present sufficient guarantees that they will abide by peace, withdrawal, handing out arms, terminating war and reinforcing the confidence”, Mekhlafi added.

His statement was made after his meeting with Ould Cheikh in Riyadh. Mekhlafi stressed the government’s keenness and restless efforts to achieve a sustainable peace based on the three agreed upon references.

“Rebel militias are conducting escalating political steps that threaten then national unity,” he continued.

From his part, Ould Cheikh expressed the U.N. rejection to unilateral procedures ad emphasized that peaceful solution is the best choice.

Ould Cheikh Suggests New U.N. Plan for Yemen without Giving Details

Yemeni Crisis

Aden, New York-U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced on Tuesday that he handed out a plan to a delegation from Houthi rebels and the General People’s Congress including security and political arrangements for ending the conflict in the country.

The U.N. envoy said the rebels would give their response to his proposal in the coming days.

Prior to ending his two-day visit to Sana’a, Ould Cheikh said he called on all parties to fully cooperate to end the fighting.

“All parties must cooperate fully and swiftly to support political alternatives to secure lasting peace guided by a conviction that violence is never a viable solution,” the U.N. envoy said.

He added: “We also pushed all concerned parties to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to all Yemeni areas.”

Peace talks between Yemeni warring parties held in Kuwait ended in deadlock in August.

Ould Cheikh gave no details on his latest roadmap.

Yemeni political analyst Abdullah Ismail told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Although the plan presented by Ould Cheikh to the rebels remains unclear, I do not expect them to accept any vision that could possibly lead to their withdrawal from Yemeni cities or handing over their weapons.”

After Ould Cheikh left Sana’a on Tuesday, the rebel delegation issued a statement confirming it had received a road plan from the U.N. envoy, adding that it would discuss this plan with the group’s political leaderships before taking any position.

Meanwhile, the Arab Coalition denied on Tuesday it imposed a blockade on Yemen, saying instead that it was monitoring the area to prevent the smuggling of weapons.

“No, there is no blockade,” coalition spokesman Major General Ahmed Assiri told AFP.

“There is control based on international law… Control is different from blockade, which means that nobody can enter or leave” the country, he said.

On the battlefield, Al-Arabiya news channel quoted sources as saying that the Arab coalition has intercepted and destroyed Houthi militia ballistic missiles into Marib.

“Kerry’s Plan” for Yemen Accepted by Government, Rejected by Rebels

kerry's plan

Aden- Yemeni government welcomed on Saturday the plan announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jeddah last Thursday to restart peace talks with a goal of forming a unity government. However, Houthi rebels rejected it.

The government’s first official reply to Kerry’s roadmap was announced by its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdul-Malik Al-Mekhlafi, who said: “The Gulf-U.S.-British meeting in Jeddah carries a strong message to rebels revealing that the international community cannot bare more delays and postponements.”

Tensions in Yemen escalated when President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was sent into exile, after former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Houthi supporters seized the capital city of Sana’a in 2014.

Several news agencies had quoted on Saturday a Houthi rejection to hand over its Ballistic Missiles, which Kerry said was “threatening Saudi Arabia and the U.S.,” and which continues to reveal the intransigence of the rebel group.

U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller told Asharq Al-Awsat that the war in Yemen would end only if warring parties resume peace talks and accept a national unity government that would eventually lead to the withdrawal of militias from the main Yemeni cities and the handing over of weapons.

The already frozen negotiations to end 18 months of fighting in Yemen collapsed this month and Houthi militias resumed shelling attacks into the kingdom.

Washington is also upset from the use of Iranian missiles in the fighting, adding that Iran should decide whether it wants to play a constructive role in the region, or to continue stimulating tension and chaos, the Ambassador said.

“Iran did not help in Yemen. We are very displeased with the use of Iranian missiles, which are placed close to the Saudi borders,” Tueller said.

He said the U.S. was determined to end the conflict through peaceful means. “There is no military solution in Yemen, but a political one,” Tueller said.

He added that Russia, as part of the G18 group, also supports a peaceful solution in Yemen. “We have not seen any signs of Russia military intervention in Yemen,” Tueller said.

A Turkish Three-Step Roadmap For Syria Including Assad’s Departue

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addresses the media in Ankara. Photo: Reuters

Ankara, Beirut- Turkey has set a three-step scenario for a political solution in Syria summarized in protecting the borders, preventing the creation of states controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the return of refugees currently residing in neighboring countries.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim asserted during an interview with the Turkish Karar newspaper published yesterday that the new era would not see a state structure based on Syria’s sectarian, ethnic or regional basis.

Yildirim said that when there is no sectarian structure, this means that Bashar Assad will not be in Syria “in the long-run.”

The prime minister said a solution in Syria will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity, and therefore, a strong state could not be formed in the presence of the Kurdish PYD in North Syria.

Diplomatic sources had previously told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that “Turkey would not accept the presence of Assad, but rather agrees on his staying during a short transitional period.”

However, the latest statements delivered by Turkish officials and Ankara’s rapprochement with Moscow and Tehran that support the Syrian regime, had showed a Turkish inclination to Bashar Assad’s regime.

Several analysts expected a breakthrough in the relations between Ankara and Assad’s regime in light of Turkey underscoring Syria’s unity.

But, Yildirim has set the method through which Turkey will deal with the Syrian crisis in the coming phase. The prime minister asserted that his country would overcome the Syrian problem together with regional actors. He said the time had come for Turkey to mend relations with Syria after taking steps for rapprochement with Israel and Russia.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had visited Ankara last Friday for talks with Turkish officials three days after Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan had visited Russia where he sat with President Vladimir Putin.

Also, the latest military changes in the Aleppo battle and the recent Russian-Turkish-Iranian rapprochement had imposed a change in the positions of the so-called Hezbollah and its secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah.

Lebanese political researcher and an expert on Hezbollah affairs and Islamic movements, Qassem Qassir told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper: “A big development is now happening in Syria.”

Qassir said such a conclusion could be reached “if we look at the way Nasrallah spoke with the armed groups in Syria by calling on them to reach an understanding with him because they were used as a tool by the U.S.”

Qassir said: “It is clear that the party’s secretary general was not speaking from a weak position, but, certainly, he was preparing the grounds for upcoming changes and a political settlement, based on the Turkish-Russian-Iranian rapprochement and information about a new phase, not only in Syria, but the entire region.”

Director of the Umam Documentation and Research center Lokman Slim told Asharq Al-Awsat there is no need to stop at the comments of the so-called Hezbollah, even if its secretary general Hassan Nasrallah issued them. However, he said: “It is important to monitor the Iranian policy and how Tehran was trying to benefit from the regional and international changes.”

Slim, a Shi’ite activist who opposes the views of the so-called Hezbollah, said: “When Iran makes military victories, it considers itself a winner. However, when it retreats and loses, similar to what is now happening in Aleppo, then Tehran refers to the diplomatic choice.”

UN Roadmap for Syria, and a Truce and Negotiations at the Beginning of the Year

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov before the start of the meeting on Syria in New York yesterday (AFP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov before the start of the meeting on Syria in New York yesterday (AFP)

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday endorsing an international roadmap for peace in Syria which includes a ceasefire and negotiations between the regime and the opposition at the beginning of January. The resolution includes the components mentioned in the plan which was drawn up by the major powers during the last two Vienna meetings held in October and November respectively. The resolution stipulates that the Security Council “support the ceasefire on all Syrian territory” and enter the stage of implementation as soon as the authority and the opposition take “the first steps towards the political transition process”. It also expresses the Council’s “support for free and fair elections”. The roadmap also includes the formation of a coalition government within six months, elections within 18 months and sending international observers.

Coinciding with this, the supreme negotiating body for Syrian opposition forces concluded its meetings in Riyadh yesterday by determining conditions which include releasing detainees and lifting sieges on cities before any negotiations with the regime. Riad Hijab who was selected as the general coordinator for the body emphasised that the opposition is insistent on its request for a transitional government with full power. He added that the negotiating battle would run parallel to the field battle on the ground. Hijab also focussed on the fact that the negotiating period must not exceed 6 weeks.

George Sabra, a member of the supreme negotiating body, demanded that the Islamic military coalition formed in Saudi Arabia recently play a role in Syria.

The Islamist Reaction

A protester holds a picture of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi as Sudanese and Egyptian Islamists shout slogans against Mursi's ousting during a rally after midday prayers, while they march from King Farouq Mosque to the Egyptian embassy in central Khartoum July 8, 2013. Source: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
A protester holds a picture of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi as Sudanese and Egyptian Islamists shout slogans against Mursi’s ousting during a rally after midday prayers, while they march from King Farouq Mosque to the Egyptian embassy in central Khartoum July 8, 2013. Source: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Mursi’s defiance until the very end of the military’s deadline may appear surprising, considering the completeness of the political forces arrayed against him—unless you think that Mursi intended to become a martyr for “legitimacy,” the watchword of those who oppose his removal. For them, this is a coup against the constitution, the revolution and the people.

Islamist reactions to the Tamarod (Rebellion) movement—the petition that called for Mursi’s removal and the holding of early elections—have been mixed. Last Tuesday, Nader Bakkar, a spokesman for the Nour Party, the most prominent of the Salafist parties in Egypt, tweeted that the party would be participating in the transitional roadmap. It thus abandoned its broad ideological ally, the Muslim Brotherhood, even before the end of the army’s ultimatum. However, Monday’s events have prompted the Nour Party to weaken its commitment to the roadmap, leaving the party in an ambiguous place between the pro and anti-Mursi camps.

Nonetheless, the Nour Party’s problematic participation in the roadmap has given it greater influence than Mursi’s supporters, who are doggedly backing the ex-president’s legitimacy. The Nour Party seems to have been able to effectively veto Mohamed El-Baradei’s candidacy for prime minister. A tweet from Bakkar on Saturday, July 6, reveals more of the Nour’s equivocal position. Bakkar strongly condemned events following the statement made by armed forces chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. Bakker rounded on the Interior Ministry, condemning what he saw as its practice of giving “practical cover to thugs to murder, intimidate and dominate the street.” However, he fell short of naming the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The Nour Party’s position marks it out strongly from the Brotherhood and its allies, who vow to continue their sit-in in front of the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque until Mursi’s return. Speakers on the stage differentiate between the army and its leadership, and lead chants of “the Egyptian Army is our army!” This rhetoric contends that the army has been used by the usual culprits of the “counter-revolution,” enumerated in a sign in the courtyard of the mosque, including the Interior Ministry, the judiciary, corrupt businessmen, felul (remnants of the Mubarak regime), and the Coptic Church.

Speakers are keen to draw attention to the fact that it is not just members of the Brotherhood who are taking part, nor is it just Islamists. A young member of Baradei’s Al-Dustour Party explained his attendance to me as his duty to protect the system, not the president, and said that if this democratically elected president was toppled, there would be no hope for the next one.

The importance of one particular Islamist group, Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya, and its party, the Building and Development Party (BDP), has been magnified by their loyalty to the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). With only thirteen seats in the last parliament, and despite their May promise to lead a bloc without the FJP, these two parties now consider themselves leaders of a new Islamist umbrella group called the National Alliance in Support of Legitimacy.

After Sisi’s address on Wednesday, Al-Azhar grand sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, opposition leader Mohamed El-Baradei, and Coptic pope Tawadros II addressed the nation, a line-up that caused consternation. Members of the BDP asked incredulously why the pope should address a majority Muslim country. One Azhari sheikh at the sit-in alleged that Tayyeb’s current participation in the roadmap and his previous membership in Mubarak’s National Democratic Party showed that he was far too interested in his own position to care about the rights of the people.

The participants at the sit-in are adamant on their peacefulness and most vowed that even if they faced state violence, they would not react in kind. The stage at Rabaa Al-Adawiya has hosted a number of eerie and theatrical processions of men dressed in head to toe in white cloth, smeared with red paint to represent gunshot wounds. Protesters contended that these “martyrs” are those willing to lay down their lives peacefully, rather than through violent action. This is the narrative that is being used to explain Monday’s killings.

Because of its violent confrontation with the state in the 1990s, the Gama’a is sometimes considered a weathervane for the prospects of Islamist violence in the face of political frustration. Some say the group’s switch to peaceful politics was only strategic—an admission of the insuperable odds it faced. This is debated, but even if true, it seems unlikely that the group will resort to large-scale violence given the similarities between their strategic position today and in the late 1990s.

Nonetheless, it would be foolish to ignore the civilian-on-civilian violence of the last few days. Both sides claim YouTube videos of deadly violence as evidence of the other side’s contempt for life; only in some of these videos it is possible to identify the assailants. However, it is important to differentiate between these clashes, which are relatively low-scale considering the numbers on the streets, and the size of clashes that would occur if the conflicting groups paramilitarized properly. Much will depend on the army’s willingness to intervene therein, as well as its ability to restrain itself.

Despite the Brotherhood rejection of the roadmap’s plan for elections, a BDP official said on Friday that the party would compete in any future elections, and would aim for thirty percent of votes. It seems unlikely that other Islamist parties would martyr their electoral prospects for the cause of Mursi’s “legitimacy.”

Yet despite the factors militating against a large-scale (re)turn to violence or an Islamist boycott of the political process, the effects of June 30 are potentially very damaging. 2013 is likely to go down in Islamist lore with 1954, Algeria 1992, and 2010, contributing to an Islamist historiography of victimhood and exclusion.

If the roadmap succeeds, much will depend on the success of the Islamists in the next elections. Having become accustomed to a majority, they may consider something significantly less than that a constitutional rip-off. However, this will only determine the degree, rather than the existence, of the increased suspicion and polarization that will be one of the legacies of June 30.