GCC ‘must shape a new Middle East'
Manama, October 30, 2013
GCC countries have a unique opportunity to shape the future of the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, said a top official, adding that leaders must invest in their people to fight off new threats to their sovereignty.
"Economic and social reforms are important, and Gulf countries should use their funds to shape the region, ensure independence of judiciary, fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law according to international standards," former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
"The Middle East faces threat of terrorists and jihadists who have crossed borders and want to create a new Middle East that is at war with the rest of the world.
"It is important to deal with terrorism and civil wars or else the regional actors will be replaced by salafists and jihadists,” he added, speaking at the opening of the Gulf Strategic Conference in Bahrain.
Former world leaders, prominent Arab figures and researchers are taking part in the high-level meeting at the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea and Spa.
The two-day conference is being organised by the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies to discuss regional and international transformations, as well as regional and global security.
"The Middle East is at a crossroads, as it is embroiled in several conflicts that have led to drastic shifts and changes in the region and Arabian Gulf," said de Villepin.
"Bahrain is one of the epicentres of the political earthquake brought about since 2011.
"Because there are political divisions here concerning constitutional rights and civil liberties and opposition between the Shia and Sunni communities."
De Villepin described Bahrain as a "land of tolerance" that had the ability to deal with its issues.
"We are hopeful the dialogue process will be successful and set an example for the whole region," he said, during a session on regional and international transformations and the potential implications.
The former prime minister said political instability created dangerous "temptations" for the leaders affected.
"They can be tempted to maintain security by force," he said. "Force only creates the need for more force and then starts the vicious circle, where no one is correct."
De Villepin pointed to the example of Syria, which he said was now out of control under the "terror rule" of President Bashar Al Assad.
"There is an international deadlock on Syria while the bloodshed continues. More than 120,000 people are dead, two million refugees are abroad and another four million are waiting at the Syrian border," he said.
"Iran, Hizbollah and Russia back the regime while Saudi and Qatar back the opposition."
De Villepin said the spillover of the Syrian situation, coupled with regional instability in Egypt, was creating new threats for the Middle East.
"I think the war in Iraq is responsible for triggering this tragedy in the region as it ruined interest of Western diplomacy," he said. "Dialogue is the way to peacefully settle crises and political disputes for stability in the Middle East."
Similar views were echoed by Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies chairman Dr Muhammed Abdulghaffar.
He explained superpowers such as the US and Russia had reflected signs of "obvious anxiety and confusion" following changes in the Arab world.
"It is time to realise that they are historical shifts caused inevitably by the logic of change in the state and society," he said.
"Our region faces the non-traditional security risks of radical ideologies through organisational networks that have transcended borders of countries and pose threat to modern state. Some of these groups and networks use violence and terrorism in pursuit of their own agendas that are not in line with the state's national interests.
"However, the current challenge to the GCC countries is confronting any attempt by some regional powers to use these transformations to promote policies of hegemony in the region and interfere in GCC and Arab states' local affairs,” he added.
Dr Abdulghaffar, who is His Majesty King Hamad's diplomatic affairs adviser, also spoke about the impact of Iran's controversial nuclear weapons programme and the threat of electronic terrorism. – TradeArabia News Service