Time for Arabs to close ranks: Mohammed

DUBAI - General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, has urged Arab countries to seize the opportunity of the forthcoming Arab Summit in Cairo next month to unify their ranks and play a proactive role in current developments. Speaking to Al Sharq Al Awsat Arabic daily here yesterday, Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said if that opportunity was missed it would be exceedingly difficult for the Arabs to positively influence the current events in their own region.

By (Wam)

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Published: Mon 24 Feb 2003, 3:06 AM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 10:26 PM

Gen. Shaikh Mohammed described the current situation as grave, hence the need to unify ranks and reach a consensus on how best to resolve the current crisis in the region. He stressed that such a consensus would demonstrate the unity and strength of the Arabs, as always advocated by the President, His Highness Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. "President Shaikh Zayed has taught us that the strength of the Arabs lies in their unity and ability to work together in an atmosphere of frankness, tolerance and sincerity," Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said. "Despite the current state of affairs in the Arab world, we should not stand by idly without playing a role for the better," he said. Lamenting Arabs' inability to act in the face of a flurry of global activity to avert war and find a peaceful solution to the current crisis, Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said: "The current situation is grave. But we should not lose hope. We need concerted efforts to ensure that a peaceful solution is reached. It is regrettable that the Arabs lack a common vision to the current crisis at a time when regional and global efforts are afoot to resolve the crisis".

Gen. Shaikh Mohammed noted that if the summit was convened now, then the message that would emerge from the summit would positively influence the current developments. He pointed out that recent differences during the ministerial meeting should be a cause for the Arabs to be more resolute in facing the current challenges.

"Arab differences are not new. We thought these differences have waned following the Beirut summit of March 2002. The fact that these differences continue to prevail at this critical juncture underscores the need for the Arabs to avoid what happened in 1990, which resulted in tragic consequences. This time if the Arabs do not meet to handle the current events with greater responsibility, then these events will have far-reaching consequences on the security and stability of the region for many years to come," noted Gen. Shaikh Mohammed.

He expressed conviction that Arabs could still play a great role in defusing the present tension and avert war if they so chose. "From the pronouncements that have been made so far it's clear that all Arab countries are opposed to war and that they are committed to the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq. If these positions are concrete, then why not translate them into an action plan through a summit?"

Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said the looming threat of war constitutes a monumental test for Arabs' ability to forge a better and credible alternative to war. If war breaks out in this region, he said, it would be destructive for health and environment. On the other hand, if the Arabs succeed in averting it thro.ugh a swift diplomatic action, then the region would be spared and its stability will contribute significantly to overall global peace and stability.

Asked if the sending of troops by AGCC countries to Kuwait meant implicit endorsement of war plans, Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said the forces were sent in response to a Kuwaiti request. As a member of the AGCC , Kuwait is entitled to protection and support, should its stability and security be threatened. "The forces are not going to participate in a war against Iraq but rather to protect Kuwait and its territorial integrity if attacked", said Gen. Shaikh Mohammed.

On whether the UAE has any fears about a re-mapping of the region, Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said: "Gone are the days when borders were demarcated and new countries carved."

He pointed out that the real fear was a break-up of Iraq and implications of that possibility on the region.
Asked if the outbreak of war would have economic repercussions on the UAE in general and Dubai in particular, Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said the country had survived three major wars since 1980, the first and second Gulf wars and, more recently, the global war on terrorism.

"Naturally , as part of the region, we were affected . But our policy is based on a set of principles laid down by President Shaikh Zayed, which are based on good neighbourly and friendly relations, support for those in distress around the world and support for Arabs and Islamic causes.

"Therefore, when conflicts break out, we handle any situation with confidence and also exert every effort to maintain our security and stability," he said.

Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said that even as airline companies collapsed in some parts of the world, the Emirates airline achieved significant profits and Dubai tourism industry continued to grow. Many economic initiatives continued to be launched.

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