Events

Challenges Facing the Arab World: Reform, Iraq and the Peace Process

March 11, 2004 // 11:30am12:30pm

During this Director's Forum, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, Marwan Jamil Muasher spoke about three issues that his government is currently working on: reform in the Arab world, reconstruction and stability in Iraq, and the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Reform
Reform has taken center stage in the Arab world, Foreign Minister Muasher said in his opening of this director's forum. He observed that while the Arab world shares the conception of the "Greater Middle East Initiative Plan", it is of utmost importance that it be seen as an Arab reform initiative and that it is not perceived as a blueprint designed by the West and imposed on Arab states. He also cautioned that each nation in the Arab world has different considerations; one size does not fit all for democratic reform.

Muasher noted a current effort in the Arab League to establish a set of principles concerning women's rights, freedom of expression, judiciary and education reform, among other areas. The goal of the League is to adopt this set of principles by the end of this month. Muasher stressed that while the Arab/Israeli conflict must not be used as an excuse to not move on reform, it is equally true that movement on reform without movement on peace cannot work. The two efforts must go hand in hand. But, he again cautioned, the reform effort must not be perceived as a move against Islam.

He went on to describe that Jordan has a plan of action with women's rights that includes a list of all the laws in the nation that needs to be amended to put an end to discrimination against women. Likewise with freedom of expression, Jordan has compiled a list of laws that need to be amended, abolished, or created in order to insure a truly independent media.

The Peace Process
According to the foreign minister, the latest proposal by Israel for withdrawing from Gaza seemed promising, but he cautioned that the Palestinian Authorities must be prepared to maintain order and security should withdrawal become a reality. Several questions remain unanswered about the proposal—will the withdrawal be complete? Will it be in tandem with dismantling of settlements in the West Bank? Is it a replacement of the Road Map or a part of it? He stressed that there is no alternative but to work with the Palestinian Authority and to help them to rebuild their security capability so that they are able to take over in an organized manner.

He stressed that the process cannot move forward until the security situation is addressed. It is very important that Arab states take a stand against operations that target civilians and that they support Egyptian efforts to arrive at a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. It is equally important that Israel commit to the third phase of the Road Map which assures an end to the occupation and a viable two-state solution, Muasher said. "No party can commit to one or two phases of the Road Map and credibly assume that it is satisfying the legitimate needs of the other party."

Muasher said that any effort that supports a two-state solution is an effort that Jordan will support, while any effort that moves against a two-state solution is an effort that Jordan will oppose. This defines the position that Jordan took in opposing the building of the Wall.

Iraq
Arab states need to take an active position in helping Iraqi citizens. "If the objective is to shorten the time of the occupation, then we all need to take an active role in helping the Iraqis during this time," Muasher said. Jordan firmly believes that a political process in Iraq must be accompanied by a rebuilding of the Iraqi security capability if the unity of the country is to be preserved. This is why, according to Muasher, Jordan took on the job of training the Iraqi police force and some military. The unity of Iraq is not only an Iraqi internal issue; it is also a regional issue. Muasher warned that the dismemberment of the country would throw the whole region into an era of instability. The foreign minister went on to stress the importance of helping the Iraqis toward a system where they respect the rule of the majority, but respect the rights of the minority. If this golden rule is not preserved, the country may fall into civil war.

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