Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa has warned against a sudden collapse in the Arab stance, and has called on all the Arab countries to shoulder the responsibility and reject the postponement or abandonment of the report of Judge Richard Goldstone. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Musa says that the tools of the peace process are well known to the United States and to Israel, the occupying country. Musa wonders: “Why the impasse and the steering away from the vision of the just peace that has been confirmed by the resolutions of the Arab summits.”
Musa talks about the contacts he currently is conducting with the Arab foreign ministers to hold a meeting to discuss the current developments. He also talks about his visit to Yemen, and says that it does not aim at Arabizing the issue, but at helping Yemen to preserve the gains of unification.
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you intend to convey new ideas during your visit to Yemen to contain the grave effects of the current battles?
[Musa] The situation in Yemen is important for all Arabs, and the stability of Yemen and the emphasis on and guarantee of its unity are fundamental for the Arab entity, even for the Arab survival. It is natural that I discuss this with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and also that I discuss with him the possibilities of Arab action in this field.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How could this situation be ended, especially as Yemen has announced its rejection of internationalization and Arabization?
[Musa] This is neither Arabization nor internationalization; it is sincere efforts to put an end to a worrying and grave situation, to preserve the Yemeni gains achieved by unification, and to establish stability. I will keep any other details until I meet the president and the Yemeni officials.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will the Arab dealing be bilateral, especially as Egypt has sent its foreign minister and Minister Omar Suleiman to consult over the containment of the battles in Yemen?
[Musa] This Egyptian move is evidence of the concern felt by the Arabs. Since the beginning of the crisis I have been in touch with the Yemeni officials, and I have received many messages from the brethren in Sanaa. The situation requires us to consider how to conduct an actual action to preserve the Yemeni and Arab interests.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do the exchanged messages include indications of the gravity of the battle?
[Musa] I would like to keep the details of the entire issue within the framework of the dossier under discussion; this is what is going to be discussed in Sanaa.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your comment on the reports saying that what is taking place in Yemen is a Saudi-Iranian war?
[Musa] There is a great deal that has been said and published. I do not consider it appropriate to comment on everything that is circulating, but we ought to conduct responsible consultations about the entire situation with all its dimensions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you not think that the capabilities available to the Huthists are tantamount to the capabilities of a state, and exceed the potential of groups?
[Musa] We, indeed, monitor the presence of many capabilities. All this is under surveillance, and continuous monitoring. I do not want to talk about an issue that I will discuss with President Ali Abdullah Saleh during my visit to Yemen on Tuesday. I will restrict myself to this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the results of your visit to New York, especially after many Arab and international meetings conducted on the sidelines of the meetings of the UN General Assembly?
[Musa] The result is that there is a crystallized Arab stance toward not allowing one of the sides to exploit the peace process to play for time, which is at the expense of the Palestinian absentees and their rights. Therefore, the Arab stance is based on a number of factors: The Arab initiative, the need to halt the settlements because they contradict the bases of negotiations, and all the issues of the final settlement – Jerusalem, the sovereignty of the state, peace, borders, the refugees, and the water – ought to be on the agenda of any effort exerted by any side toward peace.
I consider that excluding any of these issues would be a grave indication that one of the factors of peace has been dropped, and that peace is being threatened. There is Arab unanimity on this. These factors ought to be explicit, and no side has the right to drop them from the table of negotiations. At the same time, all this ought to take place under objective conditions that are capable of determining the framework, i.e. if there are negotiations there ought to be a timetable for them, and there ought to be monitoring and observation, because leaving the situation as it was in the past years has led to what we are going through now. Over and above all, I consider that halting the settlements in the occupied territories including Jerusalem is a fundamental issue without which we will reestablish the vicious circle anew.
Second: In order to be fair, there is a great effort exerted by President Barack Obama and the pillars of his government, including Senator George Mitchell. We have met and talked at length about the elements of the US stance. They know fully the details of the Arab and also the Palestinian stances, and especially the stance of Israel, the occupation country, and its commitments are well known.
Third: It has been agreed between the United States and the Palestinians, also between the United States and Israel, to resume some balanced contacts under US sponsorship. This has taken place during the past days, but the Arab League has not yet been informed about the results of these contacts. However, it is circulating that a US paper of proposal will be presented during the upcoming three weeks. The Arab stance is well known and documented through Arab resolutions at the level of summit, foreign ministers, and all specialized councils. These resolutions ought to be respected at the Arab level, otherwise the Arab stance will become fragmented, and there would responsibilities that stem from this. Also there is an agreement on convening the ministerial Arab follow-up committee after we receive from the Palestinian side sufficient information about its negotiations.
Fourth: I am still not reassured. There are indications that might be disturbing and a source of disturbance, because the return to the negotiations under the same previous conditions, without a time framework, without a clear agenda, and without halting the settlements will lead to the same results we obtained before. Logic stipulates that if we want different results we have to have different beginnings. It is well known that the fluid Arab beginnings, the verbal reassurances, and the attempts to cover up the Israeli practices have led to the failure of the negotiations, and to giving Israel the opportunity to do what it wants.
The Arab League is aware of all this and all this is stipulated in the resolutions at summit level; therefore, it is imperative to deal collectively and objectively with all the developments and stances that will take place. Therefore, we have agreed to convene a meeting for the Arab foreign ministers soon.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Previously, you said that the issues of the final settlement are not conditions, but they are the agenda of the peace process. Why does Israel insist on calling them conditions?
[Musa] The statements by some senior Israeli officials indicate that any word uttered by the Palestinian or Arab side is considered a prior condition. This is unprecedented. There ought to be an agenda that includes the two issues of Jerusalem and the refugees, and other issues; anything else is considered a prior condition by Israel, and ought to be rejected. Moreover, the Israeli talk about conditions is only for the sake of maneuvering in order to abort the entire peace project. I do not think that the brethren in Palestine will accept any negotiations’ draft plan that excludes the issues of Jerusalem, the refugees, the borders, and the state and its sovereignty, a draft plan that also keeps the settlements. This in itself is considered a very grave Arab retreat that has an extremely negative meaning.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you interpret the threat by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to freeze the peace completely if Richard Goldstone’s report is submitted to the UN Security Council? Now, the discussion is about postponing it for one year?
[Musa] The situation that occurred in Geneva in the past two days is very grave and negative. No one consulted us about this decision. I am very sorry about this method, and what happened made me extremely nauseous, because there is an international report commissioned by the United Nations to investigate crimes that were committed against the Palestinian people in Gaza. To put this aside and to be complacent about it in an unprecedented way is something that required contemplation.
We are ascertaining the Palestinian stance. The question is: have we reached a stage in which the settlements are built and the Goldstone report is being marginalized without a deterrent, or even a clear stance? This is something that indicates a sudden collapse of the Arab stance, which will have far-reaching effects during the upcoming days and weeks. In this respect, I would like to Laud Judge Goldstone, particularly his saying that “the culture of immunity” in the region has continued for too long, that “the lack of accountability for the crimes of the existing war, and for the possible war crimes against humanity has reached the level of crisis,” and that “the continuous absence of justice destroys any hope in a successful peace process, and consolidates a climate that encourages violence. In fact the situation is very serious, and the loser is the proud Palestinian people who deserve a better treatment.”