Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Q & A with Arab League SecGen Amr Musa | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Q) What is your assessment of the UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, especially since some do not consider it to be an effective [resolution] and have played down its importance and the importance of the Arabs who went to the [Security] Council?

The UN Security Council resolution should have been stronger than this; it was the interpretation of a process of bringing out and mobilizing a number of the larger nations from their fixed positions of not letting the Security Council deal with the Palestinian issue because Israel does not want this. Therefore, these major nation’s task was to keep us away from the Security Council meeting in order [to prevent us] from drafting a resolution. Israel is always calling for the issue of the Middle East to be kept away from the United Nations [UN], and this is why we are trying to restore the issue to the UN, and indeed we have done so over the previous years and today.

The second reason that called upon us and always calls upon us to go to the Security Council is that Israeli is trying to attract the support of European politics towards it, in addition to the American support [that it already enjoys]. The Arabs are fully aware of this, and therefore we have continually sought to involve the Security Council in every step, the last time was in September when we convened [a special meeting] with regards to [Israeli] settlements [in occupied Palestinian territory]. We did not insist on calling for a decision because we would not have won, and our aim was to bring up this issue with the Security Council again despite the many objections from Israel and the West.

This time the issue was Gaza; the West and Israel preferred to maintain regional and other communication and keep the UN out of the issue, but we were resolved in our position to make an official resolution, and the Arab delegation took place despite pressure from a number of Western diplomats [not to do so], but we stood firm on the importance of drafting an official Arab resolution “to reveal the issue” to the Security Council.

The West tried more than once to circumvent the Arab draft resolution, but they faced extreme pressure from the Arab world, and from Prince Saud Al Faisal personally who told them; We are going to the Security Council, and if you want to engage with us then we welcome this, but if you are not serious about engaging with us then we must re-examine the whole Arab stance with regards to engaging with you. Prince Saud Al Faisal’s statement was very clear, and this had the best reaction. We understand that the wording [of the resolution] and the way of dealing with us was just stalling for time. We said to them that if by the end of the week the Security Council resolution had not been drafted and voted on, then we will leave, and return [to re-draft it] and not care about failure.

They reminded us that the resolution could be vetoed, and we said “so what?” They said that the resolution would take 7 votes [to be passed] and we said “so what? We must deal with every country according to its stance on our issue, and if they refuse to vote [for it] then we will return and inform the Arab world that we failed for these reasons.

Q) What European countries were trying to stall the Arab resolution in the Security Council?

It was a western delegate; I need not mention his name as it has become known.

Q) With your presence at the UN and with members of the Security Council, have you felt the [likelihood] of the serious implementation of the ceasefire resolution?

The issue of implementation is another step, but we stressed the importance of engaging the Security Council in this issue, and drafting a resolution without a veto and with a majority [vote] which has not occurred in a long time. We saw this same procrastination occur with regards to Lebanon and resolution 1701, however we worked hard and achieved that resolution which is not considered [strong] enough and which is not the last resolution in the UN. We must draft more resolutions, and if the situation [in Gaza] continues like this then it calls for us to draft a resolution under Chapter 7 [of the UN charter] and what will be will be, a veto does not matter but we must do our duty.

Q) So the Arabs will go to the Security Council again?

We may return if the situation [in Gaza] continues as it is.

Q) What about the meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers which will be held in Kuwait early next week?

It is natural that all the Arab momentum and impetus which has taken place for the Gaza Strip will be found in Kuwait. Before my departure from Cairo to Kuwait I will meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. The Arab Foreign Ministers in Kuwait will discuss all the developments of the situation and the war in Gaza, there will also be a joint-meeting between Arab Finance and Foreign Ministers on the 16 January. The first meeting will take place on 15 January to monitor the situation in Gaza and follow up with regards to the implementation of the Security Council resolution [calling for a ceasefire], the length it will last, and future plans [after the ceasefire has been implemented]. Also during the economic summit there will be a separate consultation between Kings and Presidents regarding the Gaza issue.

Q) What do you think of the timing of the entry of US arms into Israel?

The timing is ridiculous, and the message this sends is not reassuring. What bothers me now is the continuation of Israel’s aggressions [against the Gaza Strip], and the extremely dangerous humanitarian situation in Gaza, and the danger that all of this aid has become an Israeli military objective.

Q) Why are there no efforts to make a more wide-ranging truce, especially taking into account the humanitarian situation [in Gaza]?

Israel has refused even to grant safe passage so that the humanitarian situation can be addressed. Is this reasonable? Does Israel grant 3-hour ceasefires? Are we [supposed] to accept Gaza being targeted 21 hours a day?

Q) What are you doing with regards to Israel’s use of internationally banned weapons in military operations?

The issue of international banned weapons [being used by Israel] is currently being investigated because it constitutes a war crime. If the international forces protect Israel’s official use of internationally banned weapons then this is a new development in the international situation, one which we must take into account and stand against it. If this is true then we must announce to the world that it has become permissible for Israel to use weapons of mass destruction in its military operations.

Q) Has the Arab role ended with the emergence of Iran, Turkey and Qatar?

I do not think that Turkey wants to take over the Arab role at all. Secondly, Qatar is an Arab country and the collapse of the Arab role will affect every Arab country without exception. Thirdly, Iran is behind the current situation in the Middle East, and in my opinion we should not confuse matters which will only increase uncertainty, therefore we do not have a clear vision [of what is happening]. What I can say is that we do not have an alternative other than an Arab role backed by Arab and Islamic [countries], there is no conflict between Arab and Islamic positions rather there is integration and cooperation.

Q) The Islamic alternative [has emerged] with the premise that the Arabs have lost their role?

Many feel this, and as the Secretary-General of the Arab League I am not completely reassured by this position, but I try as much as much as possible to keep the ship afloat.

Q) What should be done in order to keep the ship afloat?

We must address the gaps in our positions.

Q) What about the level of attendance at the Arab Economic Summit?

The level of attendance will be good with regards to the attendance of Kings, Presidents, and Princes, and it is an important opportunity to consult and coordinate with regards to what is happening additionally, while not influencing the discussions of economic and social affairs.

Q) Khalid Mishal has refused a permanent truce, refused international force, and refused the disarmament [of Hamas], what is your view on this?

I do not want to comment on this under the present circumstances, what I do want to say is that there are feelings that progress is being made by the Egyptian contact with Hamas which will lead to an end of these refusals, which will be in the interests of one and all.

Q) When do you expect a ceasefire, and what of the reports that Israel will continue [the attack] for one month?

Nobody knows, because there are extremely contradictory views, but because of the humanitarian issue and the overall Israeli plans and the political games being played, this crisis will continue, there will be no ceasefire, but the crisis will consider perhaps for months. The most important thing in my opinion is that Israel is making large gains from the Fatah and Hamas positions, because it is dedicated to the separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, and by doing so continues talk that there is no single Palestinian territory, because the Palestinians themselves are going their own [individual] way.