Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa has stressed that all the Arab countries will participate in the upcoming Arab summit with sincere intentions in order to serve Arab interests. Regarding current relations between Libya and Lebanon, Musa says: “I will answer this question after I return from Beirut.”
Musa is expected to visit the Lebanese capital, Beirut, next Wednesday, 17 March, to discuss the crisis between Libya and Lebanon.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat the Arab League chief talks about a number of Arab issues, at the forefront of which is the Algerian call for alternating the post of secretary general. Musa stresses that “alternating the post of the secretary general is not on the agenda of the Arab summit.”
Musa also reveals his agenda and his negotiations that take place during the days preceding the Arab summit. He stresses the importance of the US role in preventing the current deterioration in the Palestinian territories, and says that “Israel has stolen the opportunity we gave to the United States, and insulted a superpower.”
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you think of the Lebanese president’s decision not to participate in the upcoming Arab summit?
[Musa] I would rather postpone answering this question until after my visit to Lebanon, which I will pay within hours. However, all the Arab countries will participate with the intention of developing the joint Arab action.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The dossier of the Arab-Arab relations has been there since the Damascus summit. Is there anything new?
[Musa] This dossier will be discussed at the summit, and everybody is going to the summit with the intention of dealing with this issue.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are adjustments to the post of secretary general on the agenda of the summit?
[Musa] This subject is not on the agenda of the summit.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] what is your agenda for the Arab summit?
[Musa] I will meet the new president of the European Commission, who will visit the Arab League on 15 March, and we will conduct talks followed by a working lunch. The European Commission presence at the Arab League will include delivering a lecture about the EU policy in the Middle East, especially under the current circumstances, and the EU stance, which is close to the Arab stances; a number of political, diplomatic, and media personalities have been invited to attend the lecture. After that I will meet Senator George Mitchell to discuss what happened in Jerusalem during the past few days. I also have contacts with the EU presidency represented by the Spanish foreign minister, the host country of the Quarter (Russia), the pillars of the European diplomacy, George Mitchell as I said, and also the Turkish foreign minister. All this is in order to confront the Israeli practices, and to halt the settlement activities in Jerusalem. Before all this, I will pay a visit to the State of Qatar to arrange for the transfer of the Arab summit from Doha to Sirte.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Through these contacts, have you found a response that could lead to Israel suspending building these settlements?
[Musa] So far, we do not have anything other than Israel’s announcement that the timing of building the settlements is wrong. This is something that is unheard of, and cannot be understood. However, we laud the explicit stances expressed by the US vice president, Senator Mitchell, Clinton, and all Europe. All these are welcome, but they no longer are sufficient in themselves. It is imperative to move toward practical stances, or toward achieving practical results. This is because it is difficult to conduct negotiations while the Israeli stance takes Jerusalem out of the negotiations. These are unilateral measures undertaken by Israel at the time it is rejecting the announcement of the Palestinian State. Moreover, The Palestinian State cannot be established without its capital, East Jerusalem, and also the Palestinian State cannot be established if Israel takes from it 30 percent of its territories. Thus, the Arab group accepted the US request and proposal to halt the direct negotiations, and this was approved by the Arab ministerial meeting on 2 March for 120 days, on the basis that there are reassurances that the authorization will give the US mediator the justification to insist on not adopting unilateral measures, especially in the issue of settlements and Jerusalem.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] So therefore, you have US guarantees that the negotiations will be conducted in a better climate, and not under the shadow of building settlements?
[Musa] We have reassurances not guarantees that the negotiations will be conducted in a better climate, but then Israel announced on the first day that it is building 112 settlement [housing] units in the presence of Mitchell, and another 1600 units in the presence of US Vice President Biden. These are Israeli insults directed at the superpower. As far as we are concerned, we consider this to be a change of the land, which is graver than the insult; it makes it very difficult to establish the Palestinian State, and presents intentions that are not compatible with either direct or indirect negotiations. Therefore, we are waiting for the result of the contacts and efforts exerted with the United States.
We all consider that the United States has a very big role, and not as some people consider or write that it cannot be relied upon. I consider that the United States has a major, principal, and very important role, and I consider incomplete quotes to be wrong. Therefore, I consider it important to continue to convince the United States and Europe, because they have a fundamental role in stopping the deterioration that is taking place in the occupied territories in order to enable any peace efforts to move forward.
In fact the Arab statement of 2 March and even the statement of 11 March are very important. The stance is very clear, coordinated, and has some kind of one line along which we proceed without retreat, concessions, or diversion from the sober-minded politics and diplomacy, which we are trying to follow. Regardless of criticism, because we also criticize the situation, and everybody said that there was no need for the negotiations as they were not making any progress, we have stressed that and said that despite our lack of conviction of the feasibility of negotiating with Israel, we are giving the 120-day opportunity. However, Israel stole this opportunity! What is important is that the situation should be restored to what it was so that these negotiations would progress, as least then we will see something positive on the horizon.