Middle East has failed its people, says Dutch minister

Joel Rayburn, US deputy assistant secretary for Levant affairs and special envoy for Syria, addresses the 2019 World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea, Jordan. (AFP)
Updated 07 April 2019

Middle East has failed its people, says Dutch minister

  • No jobs, no future in the region and the public sector is bloated, says Sigrid Kaag addressing WEF
  • PLO's chief negotiator says Trump administration had done nothing to improve peace efforts

DEAD SEA, Jordan: The Middle East has failed its citizens and leaders must do more to meet their demands, a Dutch minister said Saturday, as senior figures from the Arab world insisted that resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict was key to stability in the region.

Sigrid Kaag, minister for foreign trade and development cooperation of the Netherlands, was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) being held in the Dead Sea, Jordan.

The EU and individual European countries were unlikely to play a central role in the Middle East and were more likely to support initiatives from the UN and provide humanitarian assistance, said Kaag.

“The institutions (in the region) have failed their own citizens,” she told Arab News. “Not everything is related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are no jobs. There is no future. The public sector is bloated. (Citizens) want to know how their governments are going to address this. Leadership ultimately has to come from the countries themselves. Europe can provide support. We are not living in a neo-colonial era.”

Her comments came as a senior Palestinian official said the US had “proudly become an integral part of the problem” in the conflict with Israel.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and chief negotiator, said President Donald Trump’s administration had done nothing to improve things.

Trump insists he wants an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. But the Palestinians have refused to meet his administration since he controversially recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

The Palestinians consider the annexed eastern sector of the city as their capital, and the status of Jerusalem is one of the stickiest issues in their conflict with Israel.

“Trump’s ‘Middle East Team’ has not managed to propose a single initiative to get us closer to peace,” he told Arab News. “Instead, it has taken a number of steps that have significantly worsened the situation on the ground. Whether this has been triggered by the ideological biases or the political inexperience, of those chosen to represent US national interests in the Middle East, the Trump administration has proved its inability to be part of any solution. Instead, it has proudly become an integral part of the problem.”

Erekat said Palestinians would always appreciate the support and solidarity of King Salman and Saudi Arabia.

“King Salman has stated that his support for Palestinian rights knows no limits and will not rest until a viable and independent Palestinian state is established and  Palestinians enjoy a decent life on the soil of their independent state,” he added. “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques at the Arab Summit in Tunisia and in the Arab-EU summit in Egypt reiterated his absolute rejection of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This sent a message to world leaders that Saudi Arabia does not compromise when it comes to the rights of Palestinians.”

Economic growth in any part of the world could not be achieved unless security and stability was secured and maintained, he said. The WEF was an opportunity to send a “strong message to the world” that any peace plan that did not factor in Palestinians’ legitimate demands and the international community’s support for a two-state solution would not survive and would not be accepted, Erekat added.

Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi Bin Abdullah said resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue was crucial, but did not agree with the “expectations” of some leaders in the region. “We need to look for new means so that the Middle East will become a stable region,” he told Arab News. Arabs needed to understand why Israel moved to take the Occupied Territories, he added.

But Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi said that the conflict remained at the forefront of geopolitical debates in the Middle East despite the emergence of wars in other parts of the region.

“We will not succeed if we do not realize a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital, and people living side by side,” Al-Safadi told Arab News. “Everyone knows what the answer is: A Palestinian state. Anything short of that will not be accepted. You have to look at (regional problems) in a holistic way. By addressing the despair and lack of horizons (among many citizens), you have the ability to be more convincing.”

The minister also touched on the impact of his country’s decision to help refugees. “There are 1.3 million Syrians in Jordan. That is beyond our capacity. Europe was shocked by the immigration from Syria, but it was small compared to what we have here in Jordan.”

Lebanon’s Defense Minister Ayman Elias Bou Saab, who remarked that everything else would be “easier” if a solution were found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warned that the military defeat of Daesh in Syria would not put an end to the group’s ideology.

He compared the current situation to the end of armed conflict in Chechnya. Al-Qaeda fighters dispersed, some returned home to Lebanon and began to cause problems there. “The war may have been won in Syria, but [combatants] are heading home with their ideology. This can happen anywhere,” he told Arab News.

Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

Updated 44 min 11 sec ago

Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

  • With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, there is no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground, says Hawass

 CAIRO: World-renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass has affirmed the importance of Egyptian archaeology around the globe.

“There isn’t a country that does not love Egyptian archaeology,” Hawass, who was minister of state for antiquities affairs, told Arab News.

With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, Hawass said there was no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground.

“We don’t want to discover everything. We want to start by preserving and preparing the historical monuments which we have discovered, then start thinking about what is still undiscovered,” Hawass said.

So, restoration and preservation are the main goals for now.

With the new Grand Egyptian Museum still in the works, it seems likely that archaeology will be put in the spotlight once again, with more room for Egyptian artifacts to be showcased and appreciated rather than hidden, as in the old Tahrir museum.

“No one in the world doesn’t know Egypt. Egyptian archaeology is in the hearts of all people all across the world,” Hawass said.

This explains the immense popularity the new museum is expecting, located as it is, minutes away from the Pyramids of Giza.

Another reason behind its expected popularity is the attention ancient Egyptian figures have received across the years.

“Among the most famous ancient Egyptian figures, even for those who are not interested in monuments, we have King Kufu, who built the greatest pyramid, because that pyramid is something everyone talks about,” Hawass said.

He added that King Tutankhamun was popular because his coffin was restored whole, as was King Ramses II, the most famous of Egyptian kings, and Queen Cleopatra. Each of these figures gained fame due to popular tales and monuments attached to them.

Hawass plays a crucial role in drawing awareness about Egyptian archaeology around the world as well as focusing on the current situation in Egypt.

“I lecture everywhere (about archaeology)” he said. “Two to three thousand people attend each of my lectures. So I take advantage of to tell people everywhere that Egypt is safe and that Egypt is run by a president whom we have chosen. I am trying to change the perception about Egypt.”

As part of his efforts to promote Egypt and Egyptian culture, Hawass recently visited Japan.

“They (the Japanese) love archaeology. I would never have expected to be famous in Japan, but as a result of their love of Egyptian archaeology, they know me,” Hawass explained.

This is but a speck in the eventful career Hawass has led — which all started by accident.

“As a child I wanted to become a lawyer, so I enrolled in law school at 16 but realized that it wasn’t something I could do. So I left law and decided to study literature. There they told me about a new section called archaeology,” Hawass said.

After graduating Hawass went to work for the government, which he dreaded, until his first project came along. Workers came across a statue hidden inside a coffin which he had to clean. During the process he found his passion for archaeology. He went on to pursue his graduate studies on the subject.

“I went from failure to success thanks to one thing: Passion. When a person is passionate about something, he excels in it.”

Hawass did not point out his most successful or most preferred moment in his career, so full his life has been of memorable events.

“You cannot prefer one of your children over another. They’re all in my heart, all of the discoveries I have made.”