Middle East Round Up: April 20

UAE tells Iran to butt out; Baharin's king says stability first; GCC talks Yemen; Qatar iffy on democracy; Iran cagey on Egypt ties; more...

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Gabe Kahn. , | updated: 11:04 PM

Al Nayhan
Al Nayhan
WikiMedia Commons

UAE to Iran: Butt Out!

Iran should reconsider its policies in the region and respect the unity of Gulf countries, UAE foreign minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said Wednesday in Abu Dhabi. "Iran should reconsider its policies in the region," Al Nahyan, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Gulf Cooperation Council, told a news conference after an annual GCC and European Union ministerial meeting. And it "should respect the unity and sovereignty of Gulf countries," Shaikh Abdullah said. His remarks come amid heightened regional tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbours across the Gulf. At the focal point of tensions are Iranian meddling in Bahrain and Iran's nuclear program.

Bahraini King: Stability First; Reforms Second

Bahrain's King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has stressed that stability was at the top of the country's priorities, but said reforms would continue. "Today we are trying very hard to improve the process of reform and rectify those problems that have arisen along the way. Sectarian divide has created a schism in our society that is a major challenge," Hamad wrote in the Washington Times on Wednesday. "As monarch of all Bahrainis, it pains me to see many harmed by the actions of a few. And yet I am optimistic and have faith in our people. We all realise that now is the time to strike a balance between stability and gradual reform, always adhering to the universal values of human rights, free expression and religious tolerance."

In other news, the trial of a Bahraini charges with spying for Iran's Revolutionary Guards was adjourned on Wednesday until May 2. Police said the defendant was arrested after his name was mentioned in the Kuwait-based ring spying for Iran. Earlier this month, a Kuwaiti court sentenced two Iranians and one Kuwaiti to death for their alleged role in the espionage ring busted by Kuwait last year. Relations between Manama and Tehran have now reached an abyssal lowl after Bahrain accused Iran of blatant interference in its domestic affairs. Both countries have recalled their ambassadors for consultations.

Qatari Paper to Obama: Keep Your Democracy

An editorial in a Qatari newspaper has told US President Barack Obama that Qatar was not keen on the US "exporting" democracy to the Gulf country. "Mr. President, we have often written about US foreign policy having double standards and being unmindful of the process of change in the Middle East. We do not want US to export democracy to us because we do not want to repeat the Iraq experience," wrote Khalid Al Syed, the editor-in-chief of the Doha-based daily The Peninsula in his editorial. "We believe Qatar is on the learning curve and we are making progress in practicing democracy, from media to public debate and education. It is true, we do not have party labels and a representative house, but all Qataris are one party behind the Emir and parliament and that will come sooner than later." Al Syed concluded, "We strongly believe that change and democracy should come from within and should never be imported or we will have what happened in Iraq."

 GCC Mulling Yemen Crisis

 The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states will soon take the next step to end the impasse in Yemen, UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said Wednesday. "We had talks with the opposition leaders and members from the ruling party in Yemen. We are now discussing the next step, which you will come to hear about in the next few hours,'' Shaikh Abdullah told a press conference after a joint meeting between GCC foreign ministers and their European Union counterparts here Wednesday. The ministers expressed deep concern at the situation in Yemen. "The current impasse between the various parties might decline quickly into more serious confrontation and conflict," said a statement issued at the end of the talks.

 Iran Cagey on Ties to Egypt's Junta

Iran declined to confirm a news report on Tuesday that it had appointed an ambassador to Egypt, which would mark the restoration of diplomatic relations after more than 30 years. "The news regarding the appointment of an ambassador is guesswork and is hasty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference. Egypt's foreign minister said earlier this month that Cairo was ready to re-establish diplomatic ties, signaling a shift in Iran policy since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. The website of Iran's Press TV reported that Tehran had already appointed its envoy, naming him as Ali Akbar Sibuyeh, a career diplomat who is the son of a senior cleric. Ties between the countries - among the largest and most influential in the Middle East - were severed in 1980 following Iran's Islamic revolution and Egypt's recognition of Israel.

Iraq Threatens to Cancel Arab League Summit

Iraq's foreign minister says he is prepared to postpone but not cancel an Arab League summit in Baghdad. Gulf nations asked the Arab League last week to cancel the May 10-11 summit of the 22-member group due to political unrest in the region and growing tensions between Arab states and Iraq's Shiite-dominated government. Hoshyar Zebari says his country is ready to postpone, "but Iraq will not relinquish its right to host the summit. In Baghdad, parliament Speaker Osama Al Nujaifi called the summit "very important" and said Iraq has spent millions of dollars preparing for it. The summit already has been postponed from March because of concerns about Iraq's instability and questions over whether Arab leaders whose nations were hit by popular unrest would be able to attend.

Meanwhile, suicide bombers detonated two explosives-packed cars yesterday outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, killing at least nine people and wounding 23, officials said.

Military Advisers for Lybia Rebels

The French and Italian governments said Wednesday that they would join Britain in sending a small number of military liaison officers to support the ragtag rebel army in Libya, offering a diplomatic boost for insurgent leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who is meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. This after western leaders said they would not put 'boots on the ground' in Lybia. The move comes as military experts panned the likelihood of success against Qaddafi's army relying on air-power alone. A French spokesman said the number of advisers sent would be 'single digits,' while Britain is sending 'up to 20.' An Italian spokesman said they would send advisers 'according to the needs' of the rebels. “They won’t be on the battlefield,” the Italian spokesman said. “They’ll be mentors, they won’t accompany them. Training is one thing, participation another.”

After the meeting Sarkozy promised to intensify French airstrikes.  



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