Doha Forum addresses Palestine, Syria & post-Arab Spring

Ahram Online , Wednesday 22 May 2013

13th Doha Forum, attended by more than 600 participants from over 80 countries and organisations, discusses many crucial Arab issues

Doha Forum
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (R) and other officials attend the opening of the Doha Forum,an international meeting which will discuss regional political,economic and social issues in the wake of the Arab Spring, in Doha May 20, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

The 13th Doha Forum, a global conference on international current affairs, addressed the crisis in Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the political situation in the post-Arab spring countries.

The conference, held on 20-22 May, was attended by more than 600 participants representing over 80 countries and organisations to discuss contemporary issues of international concern.

The Qatar-based conference also looked at the global economy and development issues.


Participants in the first discussion panel warned of the implications of continued fighting in Syria and called for an end to the bloody conflict.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, urged the international community to take action to stop a "horrifying tragedy" in Syria that is approaching its third year.

During the forum's opening session, he accused the Syrian regime of continuing to pursue a military solution and ignoring the "voice of reason."

“It is destabilising the region, weapons are coming from everywhere to Syria (and) Assad wants to export the conflict beyond his borders," Francois Fillon, ex-French prime minister, said.

Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and Germany’s chief negotiator at the Dayton negotiations that tried to stop bloodshed in the Bosnian war in 1995, expressed the same fears.

“I’m reminded of Bosnia… And this is what I want to say: doing nothing because doing something is so difficult also breeds responsibility and guilt. Inactivity is not a strategy. What then? The longer it takes, the worse it gets," Ischinger said.


Qatar's emir said Israel should not miss an opportunity to achieve peace with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution and pre-1967 borders, referring to the so-called 2002 Arab League initiative.  

“Our region will not know stability and security until a fair solution to the Palestinian issue is found and there is withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in 1967,” he said.

Moreover, the emir argued that the Arab uprisings in 2011 had placed Israel "in direct confrontation" with the Arab populations who support the Palestinian cause.

Sherard Cowper-Coles, Britain's former ambassador in Israel, said Britain and the United States had failed throughout history to ensure a Palestinian state alongside Israel.    

"All of us know what needs to be done for Israel’s sake in Palestine, but each of us ask ourselves whether the will is there any longer, particularly in Washington," he noted.

Cowper-Coles spoke about a larger regional context, encompassing the US intervention in Iraq and the Arab Spring events, and its reflections on the world order.

"We are seeing the beginning of the end of America as the great regulating power in the Middle East," he claimed.

"After two failed expeditions into the ‘land of the two rivers’ (Iraq) and one into Southwest Asia (Afghanistan/Pakistan), America is withdrawing."

Talking business

Gordon Brown, Britain's ex-premier, gave some predictions on the future of the global economy.

"We will see in the next two decades a global middle class which may be one billion people but will be a few billion more people by 2025," Brown anticipated.

"We will see urbanisation move from almost 50 percent of the population to 60 then 70 percent of the population, we will see two billion people owning cars and homes in a spread of middle class prosperity that is unprecedented in history."

Brown proposed the creation of a Middle East and North Africa development bank to be funded by oil states to train young people and find them jobs.

“This region has young people, a high number who want to set up businesses, but youth unemployment is high," he said.

“Egypt’s growth is 2.2 percent, Jordan’s is 2.6 percent, Morocco’s 2.4 percent, Tunisia 3.6 percent this year, but growth in all these cases could be 5-10 percent each year."

Pascal Boniface, director of the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), suggested the need for economic cooperation between the world's leading economies and rising ones such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

"The Western world has not witnessed the end of its presence, but it has seen the end of its hegemony. The United States and Europe will not become weak… We need to acknowledge a new reality. We can work with BRIC countries because there are opportunities, but we need to change our habits and modus operandi in order to be in the race," he said.   

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