‘Arab world needs heroes like Salah and Malek,’ Bahrain workshop told

Egyptian player Mohamed Salah, left, and Oscar-winning star Rami Malek
Updated 27 June 2019

‘Arab world needs heroes like Salah and Malek,’ Bahrain workshop told

  • FIFA chief calls for program to build more football pitches in Palestine

MANAMA: The Arab world needs heroes, and football and the film industry can help provide them, the US-led “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain was told.

In a plenary session at the event, titled “the power of sport and entertainment,” Thomas Barrack, an American financier and one of US President Donald Trump’s closest advisers, said: “We in the Arab world do not create our own heroes, we’ve done a bad job at creating role models for Arabs. But football and film have been roads to doing that in the rest of the world.”

Gianni Infantino, president of the international football governing body FIFA, told delegates at the gathering in the Bahraini capital Manama, that the game could help inspire youngsters, and singled out the Egyptian player Mohamed Salah as an example of a new hero in the Middle East.

“Half of the world watches the World Cup. We have got to give hope, dreams and a smile to the world,” he said.

Argentinian film producer Fernando Sulichin, responsible for several Hollywood blockbuster movies, highlighted the success of Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” film star Rami Malek, of Egyptian descent, as an example of the kind of success Arab actors could enjoy.

On White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s plan to revive the economy of Palestine and surrounding regions, Sulichin said: “Here is this plan. It is a script. I’m a producer, so now let’s get it done.”

He also noted the recent “renaissance” in moviemaking in Saudi Arabia as an example of how film could complement positive social change.

The FIFA boss also called for a program to build more football pitches in Palestine, where he said there were only 25 playing areas for a population of 5 million people.

Erdogan hosts Putin, Rouhani for Syria summit

Updated 16 min 15 sec ago

Erdogan hosts Putin, Rouhani for Syria summit

  • Putin and Rouhani met Erdogan in Ankara for their fifth summit on the conflict since 2017
  • Iran and Russia have been staunch supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed his Russian and Iranian counterparts on Monday for their latest summit on Syria, with attention focused on Damascus’s push on the last rebel-held bastion of Idlib.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani met Erdogan in the Turkish capital Ankara for their fifth summit on the conflict since 2017.
Iran and Russia have been staunch supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey has called for his ouster and backed opposition fighters.
But with Assad’s position looking increasingly secure, Turkey’s priority has shifted to preventing a mass influx of refugees from Idlib in Syria’s northwest.
Turkey is concerned over the steady advance of Syrian forces into the region, backed by Russian air power, despite a series of cease-fires.
Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib to enforce a buffer zone agreement struck a year ago with Russia to prevent a full-scale Syrian offensive.
But the posts look increasingly threatened, with one of them cut off from the rest of Idlib when Syrian forces advanced last month.
Russian air strikes have continued in the region despite the latest cease-fire between Ankara and Moscow on August 31.
“A large number of terrorists are still present in this zone... and fighters continue to fire on the positions of government forces,” Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said on Friday.
The Turkish presidency said the leaders would discuss the latest developments in Syria as well as “ensuring the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees and discussing the joint step to be taken in the period ahead with the aim of achieving a lasting political solution.”
Moscow is keen to see progress on establishing a constitutional committee to oversee the next stage of the political settlement in Syria.
That would give Putin a political win to add to the military victories, said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst at International Crisis Group.
But she said expectations should remain low.
Even if they can agree on who will form the committee, “this leaves a crux of issues unaddressed for the future of the political process including the regime’s ability and willingness to undertake any kind of political reform,” Khalifa told AFP.
High on everyone’s mind at the summit will be the weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities, which Washington has blamed on Tehran, deepening bilateral tensions and putting the region on the brink of further conflict.
The leaders are expected to hold one-on-one meetings before the three-way summit, the Kremlin said.
They will also hold a closing news conference with a view to presenting a joint declaration.
Iran has been a crucial actor on the battlefield in Syria, but has kept a lower profile in recent months. Its focus has been on removing Israeli and US involvement.
“A large part of Syria’s problems have been solved and some still remain, the most important of which is the Idlib region and east of Euphrates, as well as the Zionist regime (Israel)’s aggressions and America’s interventionist presence,” Rouhani said in a televised statement as he left Iran.
Meanwhile, Turkey has other concerns regarding Syria.
It has repeatedly threatened to launch a cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces, whom it sees as allied to Kurdish militants in its own territory.
That has strained Turkey’s relations with its NATO ally, the United States, which backs the Syrian Kurds as the main fighting force against the Daesh group (IS).
The US has vowed to work with Turkey to clear Kurdish forces away from its border, but Ankara says progress has so far been “cosmetic” and it could launch an operation into Syria by the end of this month.
Turkey has conducted previous offensives against Daesh in 2016 and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in 2018.