Showy multilaterism?

SO NICOLAS Sarkozy's Mediterranean Union initiative swings into action and scores points touching and improving on the Mideast climate. Yet despite announcing the Lebanon-Syria embassy agreement, critics are proving difficult to fault for calling the arrangement hollow, its style resembling President Sarkozy's "showy lifestyle".

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Published: Mon 14 Jul 2008, 9:42 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:00 PM

The Gulf media's interest in the proceedings is the core concerns that Sarkozy has been shrewd enough to attach with the Union's mandate, leveraging the Middle East's global relevance to add momentum to the new organisation's initial thrust. So, considering regional sensitivities, the Syria-Lebanon advancement beginning with reopening embassies will first have to be seen through the prism that concerns the building storm against Iran's nuclear programme. Any embrace between Damascus and Beirut's Sunni government will begin a marked tangent from the existing arrangement, resulting in a cornered Hezbollah and unsustainable pressure on Iran's Uranium agenda.

Middle East based observers will quickly employ part-truth and part-spin to frame an instant connect between the Mediterranean Union's to-do-list and prospect of more war in the Middle East. There is a visible Israeli want for revenge over the ’06 embarrassment at the hands of Hezbollah. Its patron Ayatollahs in Teheran, inching closer to hosting targeted bombardment as negotiations amount to naught, rely on outfits like Hasan Nasrallah's for its counter-strike, hitting at US interests and friends in the region. All else remaining constant, vibes from Paris do not provide credible deniability for more havoc in the Middle East.

Interestingly, what is most urgently needed is what was also debated at the meeting. The Arab League's stance has been at the periphery of the negotiation mix regarding building tension in an already volatile point in time. As more Arab capitals see few encouraging signs avoiding war, each is realising the importance of a combined Arab voice. Iraq's centrality to Washington's war-on-terror agenda has had the entire region paying a heavy price. More violence, needless to say, will have much more severe repercussions.

Perhaps the Mediterranean Union is just the right kind of platform to engage relevant capitals in the Middle East debate. No matter how much vested interests deny it, there is a direct correlation between Middle East violence and global terrorism upsurge. However, to materialise Sarkozy's "wind of hope" status, the gathering will have to show unprecedented translation of words into meaningful action. Failing that, the entire initiative will prove a house of cards, ready to fall apart and lead to resumption of inter EU arguments that Sarkozy attempted to divert from when he floated the Union idea.

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