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Middle East Press (23 Apr 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Change Starts from Within: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 April 2016




New Age Islam Edit Bureau

23 April 2016

Change Starts From Within

By Harun Yahya

Media, Corporate World Inspire CEOs to Confront Region’s Economic Challenges

By Samar Fatany

It’s a Wrap: Obama’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

To Putin or To Pout

By Hisham Melhem

Palestine: A Distinctive Voice for Climate Action

By Riyad Mansour

GCC: One for All, And All for One

By Bikram Vohra

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Change Starts From Within

By Harun Yahya

23 April 2016

A lot of things have so far been written and said about the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit held in Istanbul last week. We are not going to make a new assessment of the outlook and outcomes of the summit here. The interpretations in this article are related to what the summit has reminded the Islamic world and Turkey of.

Islam is a great power in its own right. Countries, leaders, organizations and individuals representing Islam are each a part of this considerable power. However, they cannot make this power felt enough most of the time because they are disorganized and divided. Thus, the factor those against Islam exploit the most is this disorganization among the Muslim community. They are well aware that they will never be able to hold sway over a unified Muslim community, that their anti-Islam propagandas will be efficacious. It is for this reason that the works carried out in concert by the Muslim countries, the activities that emphasize their solidarity has always troubled the said groups. The formation of an Islamic military alliance and later the OIC summit are events that also have the same impact.

The summit is very significant, as it reflects Muslim unity. Following statements of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who took over the chairmanship of the summit, in this regard are noteworthy:

"We should be uniting, not dividing. We should strengthen alliances, not disputes; fondness, not animosity. Out of the conflicts, the disputes, the hostility only the Muslims suffer… We should increase friends and decrease enemies.”

This is true; Muslim countries need to cast aside the dissidences and strengthen fondness, and solve their own problems through their own strength and solidarity. So at this juncture, it is necessary to bring to mind what the sole factor that brought the countries in question together in that meeting is: Islam. So long as the Muslim countries do not bring about a unity based upon their shared value that is “Islam,” they will not be able to turn into the great power that we have mentioned before. Even though trade partnerships and military agreements are beneficial to a certain extent, they are in no way a guarantee of the desired deep-rooted alliance.

Only Islam is the guarantee of such a deep-rooted alliance. It renders those countries strong and invincible. It resolves disputes; it helps countries prosper together and makes the Muslim community the representative of peace. The nations united through Islam and regarding each other as brothers form a solid, well-founded structure. No one is strong enough to shake or bring down such an effective deterrent force. It is important for the Muslim world to emphasize the significance of nation states and national borders through this conference.

As one of the positive outcomes of the summit, a women’s conference will be held in Istanbul every year. In order for the place of women to be understood properly, again, we need our only shared value, Islam. Now let’s discuss Turkey.

The summit reminded Turkey of an important value it has been distant from for some time now: The spirit of reconciliation. While President Erdogan’s statements were its assurance, the picture demonstrated at the summit was an indication of this. The Riyadh-Ankara relations strengthened by hosting Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Turkey-Egypt convergence made possible by the mediation of, again, King Salman, the Egyptian foreign minister being hosted in Istanbul, relations with Iraq being strengthened, and the emphasis that every Muslim country has an ally regardless of Shiite-Sunni differences were a long-needed progress and initiative for Turkey.

Turkey should lead an alliance and friendship policy that will defuse tensions in the Middle East. And to be able to do this, we should adopt a tone that can solve the problems beyond our borders through political means and reconciliation. Such a tone will provide a sound common sense to Turkey, conduce to the establishment of trust among Muslim countries, and the emphasis on fellowship will be remembered. If there is an important lesson that we have learned from the 21st century, it is the fact that it is not possible to solve problems through anger, resentment or violence, that alliance and embracing one another always produce constructive and good results.

From this point forward, Turkey should put this crucial issue it raised in the summit hosting the Muslim countries into action in its own domestic affairs as well. This is a vital necessity not only for Turkey, but also for all the beautiful Muslim countries of the Middle East. It is a well-known fact that polarization, disputes and the horrible never-ending animosity are used as leverage on all the countries, and they are what led Syria to its current situation. Therefore, solving the main issue within ourselves will thwart the schemes of those who have ulterior motives.

As Muslim countries, we have to adhere to the principles of reconciliation within ourselves, reconciliation between each other and ultimately reconciliation in the world. We should address the problems within and between each other through fondness, and then reach the level of wisdom and strength that will allow us to teach it to the world. This, before anything else, is what our religion orders us. And the fundamental way to achieve this is to never forget the fact that a single common and solid basis is what essentially brought us together. This solid basis is our noble religion, Islam.

Source; arabnews.com/columns/news/914306

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Media, Corporate World Inspire CEOs To Confront Region’s Economic Challenges

By Samar Fatany

Apr 23, 2016

The decline in oil prices has prompted a major economic transformation process in the GCC region. According to leading economists of the region, GCC governments to maintain financial stability and to avoid a deeper crisis in budget deficiencies must consider privatization, taxation and less funding on subsidies. TRENDS magazine and the INSEAD Business School launched the Top CEO Conference and Awards in Dubai on April 5 in which officials, business leaders and executives discussed the economic transformation process and the best ways to deal with the new challenges facing the region. During the one-day event, several speakers and panelists focused on issues that concerned both business and personnel endeavors.

Ideas were exchanged to enhance cooperation and prepare regional CEOs to face major challenges of the economic decline that could be very disruptive to their businesses. The economic transformation process will require that CEOs, business and policy leaders be innovative and able to apply the necessary requirements to transform the economy and create jobs.

The open dialogue among regional executives focused on ways to help improve their businesses and the economy. They highlighted the major challenges of the economic transformation, mainly, economic diversification, taxation, and the disruption in the old models of technology. Experts cautioned that corporate taxation is a major challenge to all businesses and CEOs need to be prepared to deal with a new business environment.

In order to diversify the economy, panellists discussed the need for businesses to enhance productivity, increase revenues and promote international trade. They highlighted the importance of enforcing new policies to maintain good governance and property rights. They also called for new measures to revise the immigration policy in order to enhance the small population of experts needed to support the economic transformation process. They pushed for anti-corruption and transparency agendas in the region.

The GCC region must invest in human capital and promote talented and qualified youth who can contribute to the economy. The speakers debated ways for business leaders to contribute to the development of talent by raising the quality of education to produce more innovators, code writers, software developers, mathematicians and scientists. Businesses in the Gulf have evolved from small enterprises into large conglomerates. As this transformation was taking place, the need arose for professional managers to run these businesses. Both the public and private sectors suffered due to the absence of professionals. Companies need more professionals for their businesses to prosper. Government policy reforms affect the economic performance and the well-being of citizens. Not enough is being done to boost innovation or streamline product and labor market regulation, which are critical aspects of today’s productivity and equity.  Policy makers need to accelerate monetary and fiscal reforms to introduce better conditions for investment and innovation that lead to higher productivity, better quality jobs and more growth that benefits all segments of society.

Another issue of great importance is the cybersecurity market which is set to grow from $5.17 billion in 2014 to $9.56 billion in 2019. Cybercrime has been globally identified as the second most common form of economic crime reported in the Middle East. The speakers debated the best practices and safeguards and outlined the best strategies to handle cybercriminals.

Cyber security measures should be taken seriously they warned as they constitute a major threat to all companies in the future. They concluded that with the emerging trends in e-commerce and online banking, companies should apply safety measures against any major breakdown in cyber security which can bring a company down.

The latest statistics reveal that women in the GCC do not play a significant role in advancing the economy. Of the 12.1 million women in the working age group, only 3.3 million are employed. Although the empowerment of women has gained momentum in recent years in the Gulf region, very few women have made it to top senior positions in the corporate world. The economists discussed gender diversity and how it could enhance strategic decision making, produce better governance and create a closer understanding of target markets. They urged the business community to include policies in order to change negative attitudes, provide mentorship and influence a fair environment to promote women in boardrooms.

The international Arab affairs magazine, Trends, in collaboration with INSEAD, the Harvard of Europe, initiated the top CEO awards to recognize the best management practices and inspire a greater level of proficiency in the Gulf. Julien Hawari, the Co-Chief Executive Officer of Mediaquest Corp., a leading publishing house in the region and the architect of the top-100 CEO awards, has demonstrated that a viable partnership between media and the corporate world can contribute to the region’s economy and serve the interests of its competitive environment.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/media-corporate-world-inspire-ceos-confront-regions-economic-challenges/

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It’s A Wrap: Obama’s Visit To Saudi Arabia

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

23 April 2016

Now that US President’s Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia is completed, it’s now time for an accurate assessment of the event itself and the results.

On the surface, Obama’s summit meeting with GCC leaders and individual one on one meetings with key rulers came off as a robust showing of American-GCC unity in the face of regional threats and a pathway forward in the remaining time in office of the current administration. In addition, the discussions were meant to set forth a foundation for the next US administration who ever that winner may be taking office in January 2017. That future needs to be thought about now.

While there was a wide-ranging umbrella of issues discussed during the US-GCC Summit’s three sessions between all parties there is clearly a hierarchy of important and immediate issues.

To be sure, the US-GCC Summit’s findings illustrate a robust set of joint action items between America and the GCC states. The summit, attended by heads of all six Gulf States, pledged to continue coordinating closely on issues of mutual concern including through meetings of foreign and defense ministers.

They also agreed to hold an annual summit-level meeting and open an office in Washington to advance cooperation, and endorsed additional security initiatives.

The recalibration of US-Saudi relations, and by extension the GCC, is a necessary historical and evolutionary move

From the GCC point of view, the most important result from the US-GCC summit was Obama’s comments on Iran which is pleasing to Gulf ears who are unhappy still with the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA). The American president said he had “serious concerns” about Iran’s continuing belligerent behaviour including missile tests and illicit weapons shipments being interdicted in the seas off of the Arabian Peninsula.

In addition, the continuing process of the US-GCC Working Group to meet twice a year is also a positive message. These efforts are slated “to advance cooperation in counterterrorism, streamlining the transfer of critical defence capabilities, missile defence, military preparedness and cyber security.” In this context, the leaders announced future plans for a significant US-GCC military exercise to be held in March 2017. With the Kingdom’s lead in forming the Islamic Military Alliance (IMA), the US is positioning the next administration to assist this new NATO-like trans-regional security organization. Thus, American support for a Sunni alliance may be reverberating positively.

US-GCC thinking on the situation in the Levant remains on the same track. Obama called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside not only because he has killed his own people but also because it was hard to see him being the head of a government that would end the fighting. On the situation in Iraq where the US is a major stakeholder together with GCC countries, Obama said that political paralysis was impeding US-led efforts to defeat ISIS and reconstruct that war-torn country.

Clearly, action is required and the Americans want the GCC to do more. According to a Jordanian official, Saudi Arabia literally is now ordering Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi to visit the Kingdom to discuss Iraq’s future but ultimately to push Iran out of Iraq.

Most importantly, counter-terrorism cooperation is moving in to high gear. Obama pointed out that intelligence sharing between the US and the GCC was vital in the fight against terrorism to help promote collective security.

This coordination on the counter-terror fight is becoming more and more important as wars rage in the Levant and in Yemen. US help to the GCC states in prosecuting the fight against terrorism is taking on new urgency specifically in Yemen regarding AQAP. America is helping the UAE with training program for attacking and eradicating the Yemeni al-Qaeda affiliate and its hold on Hadramawt province and the port of Mukalla.

Transformation

The recalibration of US-Saudi relations, and by extension the GCC, is a necessary historical and evolutionary move. There is no doubt that multilateral relations are undergoing a transformation. Although Obama himself went out of his way to suggest that the so-called “old” Saudi-US “friendship and deep strategic partnership “was still intact” there is a progression of utmost significance. The Kingdom is making clear that Saudi Arabia is seeking a recalibration of the bilateral relationship.

While the Obama Administration recognizes that Saudi Arabia’s launch of economic reforms, led by King Salman’s son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, is a critical moment in the Kingdom’s history, there needs to be the proper combination of mutual veneration and continuous communication in the coming months and years.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/04/23/It-s-a-wrap-Obama-s-visit-to-Saudi-Arabia.html

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 To Putin or To Pout

By Hisham Melhem

23 April 2016

The much vaunted “cessation of hostilities” in Syria is collapsing, under the relentless violations of the Syrian regime’s conventional forces and its auxiliary Shiite Jihadi fighters, mostly in the form of aerial bombardment of civilian targets, designed in part to make it impossible for the representatives of the opposition forces to continue the “peace talks” in Geneva.

And once again, senior American officials from President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on down, are reduced to invariably and impotently appeal or beseech or urge Russian officials to lean on Assad to soften his industrial scale brutality against Syrian civilians. Every time President Vladimir Putin moves and creates facts on the ground, and leaves behind a trail of blood and tears from the Ukraine to Syria, Obama analyses, and muses and then stoically pouts.

Ever since the cessation of hostilities was put into effect in late February, everything the Syrian regime has done on the ground demonstrates convincingly that it intends to exploit the lull in the fighting to improve its position militarily and logistically, to move decisively when the time is ripe “for the kill” against the rebel held areas of Aleppo, the country’s largest city, and the most important strategic prize in Northern Syria.

In recent days Assad’s killer air force rained barrel bombs on crowded markets in the historic rebel held town of Maarat al-Nu’man, and the town of Kafr Nabl, in North-western Syria killing and wounding scores of civilians. KafrNabl, also known as Kafranbel, became famous during the uprising, for its sharp and witty banners written in eloquent English about the stamina and the yearnings of the Syrian people under fire and the silence of the world.

One of the remarkable results of the reduced terror from the skies in recent weeks was the quick resurrection of the spirit of defiance and the grass root peaceful activism of the early stages of the uprising in towns like KafrNabl and others which are under the control of the oppressive al-Nusra. Local Coordination Committees, representing the resilience of civil society, sprung up with full force, and people resumed their public protests against both the murderous Assad regime and the abominable al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra.

At the urging of Moscow, and with significant Russian areal support, the Syrian regime regained control over the city of Palmyra in central Syria – In fact President Vladimir Putin predicted the defeat of the Islamic State ISIS in Palmyra few weeks earlier – as well as waging attacks against positions held by Jabhat al-Nusra another terrorist group not included in the cessation of hostilities. The purpose of these tactical moves was ostensibly to improve Assad’s chances of becoming a potential even if undeclared partner in the International campaign against ISIS, something that might resonate with Western capitals, in the wake of the Paris, and Brussels attacks which were sponsored by ISIS.

Rhetoric Vs. Reality

Publicly, the US government continues to support a peaceful outcome to the war in Syria that would lead, through a transitional period to a post-Assad Syria. But privately, the Obama administration is counseling the Syrian opposition groups to lower their expectations of the impending departure or demise of their tormentor, hauled up in his splendid isolation in Damascus, with rare public forays with his Desdemona as a décor for a mass killer, as we have seen him recently voting in his latest sham elections.

No serious Syrian or outside observer believes that the Obama administration will end its timidity regarding Russian-Iranian-Assad machinations in Syria

President Obama gave us yesterday his latest musings on the Assad-Putin duo, while expressing his concerns over the fate of the cessation of hostilities: “keep in mind that I have always been skeptical about Mr. Putin’s actions and motives inside of Syria. He is, along with Iran, the pre-eminent backer of a murderous regime that I don’t believe can regain legitimacy in his country, because he has murdered a lot of people”.

The analyst-in-chief is correct obviously, but in reality this prognosis cannot hide the fact that the Obama administration is gradually moving to Putin’s position on Syria, particularly regarding Assad’s fate, where the Russians would like him to remain in power during the envisioned transition. In fact the US and Russia intend to codify that in a new constitution. It is nothing short of a flight of fancy to think that a constitution for a new Syria can be drafted with Chemical Assad still in power.

Fighting and Negotiating

Both the United States and Russia for different reasons would like to see a somewhat viable peace process (again, that much abused term) at Geneva. The Americans hope that the process would begin with the release of prisoners from Assad’s dungeons, and humanitarian assistance reaching the besieged and starved communities that Assad has subjected to the worst medieval forms of punishment.

The Obama administration would like to see a “process” that would allow political talks to proceed while a tenuous calm would prevail in Western Syria, so that the American military and its international and local partners will concentrate their war on ISIS. President Obama knows that ISIS will survive him, but he would like very much to decapitate the leadership of the fake Caliphate, and add the pretend Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to the trophies that he collected in his war against al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Just as President Obama escalated the drone and Special Forces war against al-Qaeda following the “Christmas Day bombing attempt” in 2009 of theNorthwest Airline Flight 253 over the city of Detroit by Omar Farouk Abd al-Mutalab, a Nigerian recruited and trained by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), he has been escalating the war on ISIS following the bombings in Europe and San Bernardino.

If Abd al-Mutalab had succeeded, President Obama could have conceivably kissed his second term goodbye, hence his escalation against al-Qaeda which was both a national security imperative, as well as a necessity for Obama’s political survival. Clearly, Obama believes that decapitating ISIS and bleeding it is a national security imperative, but also Obama is genuinely concerned that another ISIS organized or inspired attack against the homeland will tarnish his record as the hunter of ISIS.

Russia’s military intervention came at a time when Assad’s forces were spread too thin. Just as the military intervention of Iran and Hezbollah saved the Syrian regime in 2013, Russia’s massive bombings of Syrian opposition groups, mostly in the Aleppo and Idlib areas, where there are no ISIS controlled towns, has strengthened Assad’s position, but it did not alter fundamentally the balance of power on the ground so far, because the Syrian regime’s lack of manpower has prevented it from enlarging the area under its control.

Putin’s announcement of the “withdrawal” of Russian forces was meant as a reduction of forces, to signal to Assad that Russia’s military role has limits, and that any ground campaign against Aleppo should be conducted by Syrian, Iranian and Shiite forces.

A Twin Headed-Monster

It is almost inevitable that the cessation of hostilities will collapse, and with it the Geneva “process”, because the Assad regime and its main protector Iran, as well as Russia are determined to deal the moderate Syrian opposition a severe blow by trying to occupy the whole city of Aleppo, hoping that this would be a game changer. If this happens, Assad will then insist with Russian support to be a tacit, if not a serious ally in the war on ISIS.

This nightmarish situation is mostly the result of Washington’s refusal to understand the symbiotic relations between the Assad regime and ISIS and act accordingly. From the beginning of the uprising Assad was determined to make it a conflict between the so-called “secular” Syrian state and Islamist extremists, hence his calculated release early on of a large number of hardened Islamists from Syrian jails.

The US lost its credibility as a serious foe of the Assad regime, when it refused repeatedly to challenge, deter or punish the regime even after its use of chemical weapons against civilians. Washington’s insistence on getting signed commitments from the small number of Syrian fighters it trainedthat they will engage ISIS in battle and spare the regime’s forces was the last straw.

The Syrians, who have been struggling against the Assad tyranny for five years, are also willing to struggle simultaneously against ISIS and other Islamists who would like to take Syria into the dark side. The enemy in Syria is a two-headed monster. One head is in Damascus, the other is in Raqqa.

By The Sword

Only the sword will finish the regime in Damascus, or will force it to seek a negotiated outcome that will lead to its political demise. No serious Syrian or outside observer believes that the Obama administration will end its timidity regarding Russian-Iranian-Assad machinations in Syria.

Obama will continue his limited war against ISIS hoping to degrade it and prevented from attacking the homeland during the remaining months of his tenure, and wishing his successor good luck in destroying the Caliphate. President Obama and his peripatetic secretary of state seem hapless and impotent when dealing with Putin. Syrians will remember Obama’s pout for a long time to come.

Putin stormed Syria, and like the ancient invaders from the East he scorched the earth, and bled everything standing; men, women, trees and stones. And after the seventh month, he rested while observing with admiration his desolation then claimed withdrawal. Putin’s trail of blood and tears in Syria will be remembered like those of Tamerlane and Hulagu.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/04/23/To-Putin-or-to-Pout-.html

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Palestine: A Distinctive Voice for Climate Action

By Riyad Mansour

22 Apr 2016

Leaders have converged at the United Nations in New York to sign the world's action plan to curb global warming and avert climate change's worst consequences.

The signing of the Paris Agreement is a testament to the world's ability to act collectively to address an existential problem. It is also a chance to recognise nations and peoples with unique struggles against extreme climate conditions.

The State of Palestine is one among many countries around the world facing such challenges. Now as a State Party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN treaty body in charge of climate action, the State of Palestine has a unique role.

Climate Change Threatens Svalbard's 3,000 Polar Bears

It can, in particular, share expertise about conservation in harsh environments and serve as the voice for those without full control over their natural resources in the context of international climate action.

Palestine has long been a dedicated partner in the international negotiations on climate change. Since the Rio Conference in 1992, I have represented Palestine at six international climate meetings. At each of these meetings, I highlighted the specific vulnerabilities faced by occupied peoples, who must, for example, cope with limited control over, and constant deprivation of, their natural resources.

While people living under occupation face distinct challenges, I also know that everyone, everywhere shares similar concerns. We all face rising temperatures, water scarcity, drought and rising sea levels. That is why learning from each other and sharing our determination is universally beneficial - and absolutely vital to saving our planet for future generations, an urgent objective set out by the UN in its Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Palestinians are experts in survival on minimal resources, having developed their resilience and refined practices for sustaining life in a cruel environment. This is especially true in agriculture, where Palestinians have for decades applied innovative farming techniques with proven results.

Today, Palestinian farmers use recycled waste water, water harvesting and drip irrigation to overcome Israel's usurpation of our water and to conserve our limited resources, as well as maintaining local seedbanks to preserve agrobiodiversity. Communities cut off from the Israeli-controlled energy grid look to alternative energy sources, such as solar panels.

Becoming a State Party to the UNFCCC affords us the opportunity to build upon these techniques through climate finance, technology and capacity-building, and to better share our practices with others in the Mediterranean and beyond.

Yet, pursuit of such opportunities is impaired by the fact that Palestine continues to be illegally denied control over its natural resources by Israel, the occupying Power, particularly as a result of its ever-expanding settlement enterprise in the West Bank, its blockade of Gaza, and its attacks on infrastructure, which have devastated the quality of our natural resources and our access to them.

National Action Plan

This underscores the fact that truly addressing the challenges we face as a people in all realms, whether political, social, economic, humanitarian, environmental or otherwise, requires first and foremost ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and securing the freedom and rights that the Palestinian people have been for too long unjustly denied.

As we continue to exert all efforts to that end, we are simultaneously seeking to responsibly carry out our duties to improve the lives of our people in accordance with international law and with a view to their resilience and sustainable development as a part of the global community.

Thus, in 2010, the Palestinian Authority developed a "Climate Change Adaptation Strategy" that set out a national action plan to address some of our biggest threats.

Currently, we are preparing to submit to the UN an INDC, our national contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, confirming our commitment to shouldering our responsibilities to achieve a carbon-neutral future, in spite of the fact that the Israeli occupation prevents us from fully executing our climate policy.

It is in part because of these circumstances that the State of Palestine decided to become a State Party to the UNFCCC.

For the first time the State of Palestine will sit as an equal among fellow countries in the global fight against climate change, which stands among the top priorities on the international agenda.

With this strengthened position we can ensure that people without complete control over their natural resources have an equal platform to voice their needs and be part of the global conversation and effort.

The Paris Agreement was a tremendous diplomatic achievement. We are proud that the State of Palestine is a partner in pursuing ambitious climate action. Yet, to bring about the substantive change we all seek, we each must do more at home and abroad.

The State of Palestine is a respected party in the UN and will work with our diplomatic partners to ensure effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and further enhancement of climate commitments. We want a world with a sustainable future that we can all share, as equals, in stability and peace. As a new State Party to the world's action plan on climate change, we are eager to work towards that bright future.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/04/palestine-distinctive-voice-climate-action-160422170052768.html

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GCC: One for All, And All for One

By Bikram Vohra

23 April 2016

The GCC summit in Riyadh has a lot more to offer than mere rhetoric and could, under the stewardship of Saudi Arabia as the host country and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman’s initiatives, become a watershed in today’s geographical and political equations.

For one, the presence of the US president in what is a bid to mend fences indicates how seriously the big powers must take the GCC and its priorities. These visits are no longer icing on the cake but of strategic import. The solidarity of the GCC enclave to speak with one voice and ask of the US to clarify where it stands on the issue of Iran vis-à-vis the region is a strong platform and carries with a message of hope and concern but, above all, one of a reformed and collective will that sends out an eloquent message: The US cannot and must not play two ends against the middle.

And if there is any mistaking the intent of the Council to speak with one voice nothing puts it across with more fervor than the togetherness shown by all members in supporting Morocco on the matter of western Sahara and responding to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s statement that it is “occupied” territory.

If President Barack Obama wishes to end his eight-year stint on a high note he knows he has to go beyond reassurances and mere gestures of diplomatic niceties. The region has been scarred by what is happening in Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Iraq and the spreading stain of terrorism in its many hues is a menace that has to be controlled. If there are legitimate fears of it being often “state-sponsored” then the GCC is well within its rights to expect every nation in the world to back it and use its good offices to control and end it rather than give these merchants of death and destruction tacit or material support. Any influence should be used to sponsor peace not conflict.

By that very token if there is any more prevarication or delay or obfuscation on this issue then the members of the GCC have the full right to seek alternative courses of action and defend one another against a common threat.

The Arab world has always wanted peace. King Salman has made that very clear on several occasions. That desire to live in harmony has never changed. But when the agony of its people stays unabated and there is a suspicion of aid and encouragement being given to hostile and armed faction to contribute to instability in the region and place in peril a whole generation of young Arabs then the only recourse is to stand up as one and say, enough.

America’s right to have a relationship with Iran cannot be at the expense of the Arab world. Terrorism is an absolute and does not come in varying colours. This is what the GCC is asking: Acknowledge state-sponsored militancy and help us stop it. There is no argument that the US has strong and binding ties with the region and that this relationship is integral to the peace and prosperity of the world. Both sides hold it in great esteem and over the years much good has been done.

However, the acid test is now. US foreign policy in the Middle East must become more realistic and work toward solutions and not exacerbate problems. If this meeting between President Obama and King Salman and his participation in the GCC conference can hasten a coming together on the same page and there can be time-bound commitments from Washington that there is no such thing as “good” extremism this is the right moment to change the paradigm.

These ties must be shorn of doubt and expediency and the US has to move in tandem with the GCC members to bring about cease-fires, lasting and durable peace and a sense of security to the region. This process must start today and must follow a timeline. Anything less would be not just a disappointment but also leave a very uphill climb for President Obama’s successor. More importantly, it could lead to unilateral moves by the region, which would make the US role marginal and bruise Washington’s credibility.

As the conference unfolds the GCC has shown pragmatism, commitment to peace and a great restraint, allowing all options to be tabled sans prejudice. This display of mature political acumen is an opportunity that should not be overlooked. The bus of good sense doesn’t come around all that often.

Source: arabnews.com/columns/news/914316

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/change-starts-from-within--new-age-islam-s-selection,-23-april-2016/d/107074





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