The General Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, is proposing the creation of a forum to bring together the 27 European Union countries and the 22 members of the Arab League. In an exclusive interview with EuroNews correspondent Mohamed Abdel Azim spoke to Moussa in Cairo in the week of the first ever summit of the Union for the Mediterranean, being held in Paris. The veteran Egyptian politician and diplomat spoke on a variety of issues effecting peace in the Middle East and said he does not believe the Paris gathering will not lead to the normalisation of relations between Arabs and Israelis.
EuroNews: “The first summit of the Union for the Mediterranean, how do you see its future?”
Amr Moussa: “A number of questions about the Union for the Mediterranean have not been completely sorted out, but we feel we need to work so that each project, each step, each decision is based on a reconciliation between the two sides. The Union shouldn’t be aiming to normalise Arab-Israeli relations without our consent.”
EuroNews: “You’ve suggested creating a forum…”
Amr Moussa: “What I’ve proposed is that there should be a Arab-European forum that would always meet at the same time or around the time that the Union for the Mediterranean meets. That would be the 27 European Union members and the 22 countries of the Arab League.”
Euronews: “Is the forum idea a way of countering opposition from say Libya, which believes there’s a danger that the Union for the Mediterranean will replace the African Union and the Arab League?”
Amr Moussa: “The Libyan leader, Muammar Khadafi wants to be reassured that this initiative is not going to go ahead to the detriment of other commitments and we must to take into account the things that have led to those suspicions.”
Euronews: Is Khadafi’s reaction linked to the concerns of Germany’s Angela Merkel and the fear of Arabs?”
Amr Moussa: “I think that will address a lot of their concerns.”
EuroNews: “The summit will bring together, for the first time in the history of the Jewish State, the Israeli Prime Minister and the Syrian President. Is this the beginning of a change in relations between the two countries?”
Amr Moussa: “No. It’s an international meeting gathering together a large number of countries, between which there are both agreements and disagreements; just like meetings of the United Nations or the the Barcelona Process and it doesn’t mean normalisation of Arab-Israeli relations.”
EuroNews: “Is it problematic that the negotiations are indirect?”
Amr Moussa: “And they’ll remain indirect until it’s decided that they’ll be direct. That’s all.”
EuroNews: “But Olmert has said that negotiations with Syria aren’t far off?”
Amr Moussa: “That’s another problem. We’ve not heard the Syrian viewpoint. We can’t just take into account the Israeli Prime Minister’s view of things. Syria should be listened to. And if Israel accepts to withdraw from occupied Syrian territories, that’s the time to open the door wide to direct negotiations between Israel and Syria.”
EuroNews: “Does the Israeli position make you angry?”
Amr Moussa: “Very much so.”
Amr Moussa: “In particular, because the problem of colonisation, that is Israeli settlements, completely changes the demographics and the geographical nature of the occupied territories. That makes the creation of a Palestinian state difficult. And because of that, I’m very strongly opposed to the present Israeli policy.”
EuroNews: “Have you always thought that Arabs are not easily deceived?”
Amr Moussa: “That there are some who have been easily deceived is now ancient history. These days we can’t be cheated. Israel is every day building its colonies in the Palestinian Territories and at the same time tells us: “Come on, you’ll be happy”. I say: stop your colonization policy, it’s not credible.
EuroNews: “There are those who say that the Arabs are easily deceived, and Israel and the United States treat them accordingly.”
Amr Moussa: “Well, I read a newspaper article that said we should stop all this deception and I hope that is true.
EuroNews: “The Israelis are always saying that the Arabs are divided…”
Amr Moussa: “Even if they are divided, they are united over colonization, over the creation of the Palestinian state, the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and complete withdrawal from the occupied territories.”
EuroNews: “And even if Olmert and Obama declared that Jerusalem is forever Israel’s capital?”
Amr Moussa: “Then there will be no peace. What I know is that West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. But East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state.”
EuroNews: “With regard to Iran, there are reports of a probable Israeli or American air attack on Iranian nuclear bases.”
Amr Moussa: “Listen: I said before the invasion of Iraq that that was going to open the doors of the hell – and it did. And if that is repeated in Iran, the entire Middle East will become a real hell.”
EuroNews: What will Europe’s role be, especially after the Paris Summit?
Amr Moussa: “Europe has to reinforce its economic role with a political role, especially as previous efforts have led to nothing. Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in a fair way, creation of the State of Palestine, Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories: after all that’s done, there will be recognition of Israel and normalisation of relations. That’s what’s going to get us to a stable Middle East. And when one talks about Middle East stability, it’s also the stability of the Mediterranean region and in particular of Europe.”
EuroNews: “There are many criticisms concerning a lack of democracy in the Arab world and by implication violations of human rights…”
Amr Moussa: “The lack of human rights and many other things is a problem which can be sorted out. The violation of human rights is something you see everywhere in the world.”
EuroNews: “Who’s responsible for that, do you think, Europe or the Arab world?”
Amr Moussa: “In my opinion, the problem needs to be sorted out in a sincere way. We’re all responsible for the deterioration in human rights”.