Saturday, May 22, 2004

Once again, it's easier to talk 

Progress in Middle East diplomacy - sort of:

"Arab leaders meeting in Tunisia Saturday for a summit on political reform and the Arab-Israeli conflict are expected to adopt a resolution condemning attacks against both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

"If the resolution is passed, it will be the first formal condemnation of Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis in the Arab world."
But there's a catch:

"In exchange for a declaration condemning attacks on Israelis, Washington will soften its approach to much-needed reform in the Arab world."
So let me get this straight: the Arab League will make a correct moral judgment but only if we don't require them to follow it up with a bit more democracy and freedom for their own people.

I guess, at least it's a start, although I can't help but to think that if it's really a choice between the two, in the longer term it would be better if the Arab states rather chose political and economic reform. With reform will eventually come a realisation that terrorism is wrong. I'm not sure whether pious (but possibly empty) political pronouncements will necessarily lead to political reform.

Meanwhile, BBC reports on the internal quarrels that have marred the preparations for the summit:

"[The Arab League summit] was to be held eight weeks ago, but Tunisia shocked its Arab guests by calling it off at the last minute. An official statement said that some countries were obstructing Tunisia's proposals for Arab political reform, and refusing to allow the word 'democracy' to be mentioned in the final statement. Some analysts say that was a criticism of the conservative Saudis."
Which might be one reason why eight out of 22 members aren't even turning up, including all the gulf states bar Qatar.


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