Arab Presence at G-8 Summit

This year’s G8 summit, held in The United States, may be punctuated, for the first time, by the conspicuous presence of leaders of Arab states. This is a departure from the last meeting of world powers, held in France in 2003, which featured discussions that did not directly involve the Middle East and included little input from the Arab community – only Egyptian and Saudi Arabian delegations were among these non-G8 attendees. For 2004, the invitees include a number of Arab states from the Middle East and North Africa, and the topics of discussion will focus on issues at hand in the region. US President Bush is expected to discuss at length his Greater Middle East Initiative, a proposal for renewed democratization and judicial, social and economic reforms. The weight of the Arab cause, however, may be diminished by Egypt's absence at the meeting. – YaleGlobal

Arab Presence at G-8 Summit

Mohammed A. R. Galadari
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

DEAR readers, this time, as it turns out, Middle East will be part of their agenda when the G-8 meets in the southern US state of Georgia, and they have invited states selectively from this region to participate in the discussions next month. At their last meeting in Evian, France, there were not many from this region. Delegations from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, headed by Hosni Mubarak and Crown Prince Abdullah respectively were the only Arab representatives among the 13 non-G-8 nations that had participated in that summit. And Middle East was not on the agenda at the last summit. This time, however, it is different. They have invited Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia and Jordan apart from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others.

The summit will witness the Bush administration presenting an amended version of its Greater Middle East Initiative. As is publicized, it includes proposals to finance democratization, media freedom, judicial and economic reforms and improvements in human rights and status of women in the region. Our views need to be articulated.

But, Egypt says Mubarak would skip the summit this time, as he is having “other commitments”. It appears that Egypt will not be represented at the summit at all. Egypt’s view, as stated by its foreign minister, is that, his country refuses to dissolve the Arab identity into a larger one called the Greater Middle East which ignores the fact that there is an Arab group and wants to put them in one basket with states whose circumstances are completely different”. Tunisia also would appear to be following the Egypt line.

If Egypt and Tunisia, as also the rest of the Arab invitees, attend the meeting. Clearly, this would enable us to represent our case at so important an international forum. The Arab world may have differences with the US or the G-8 in relation to the reforms and democratization proposals. So do we have differences with the US over its policy on Palestine and Iraq. But, this will be a time to air our views, rather than keeping off the meeting. In the event, we would get a patient hearing. Perhaps that is one of the main purposes of inviting so many Arab states this time.

This, dear readers, should be seen as an opportunity; an opportunity to present our case with full force and get a proper hearing. Will silence solve our problems?

© 2004 Khaleej Times