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UAE hails UK support for roadmap

posted on 03/06/2003: 652 views

London - The UAE welcomes Britain's efforts to revitalise the Middle East peace process and voices its support for unconditional implementation of the roadmap, a senior UAE minister said yesterday in the British newspaper The Times on the occasion of the visit of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Britain.

Following is the text of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Minister of State for Foreign Affair's article:

Ever since September 11, 2001, a dangerous view has taken hold in many Western countries. A view fuelled by ignorance and misunderstanding, a view which could destabilise many parts of the world. It is this: that the Muslim and Western worlds are locked in a clash of civilisations. The Arab world's dispute with the West is not religious. It is political. - And focused on one issue alone. Yes, there are fanatic Muslims who reject the tolerance fundamental to Islam. But they are a tiny minority, who have managed to hoodwink many - Muslims and non-Muslims - into believing that bigotry and terrorism are integral to the Muslim faith.

Some opinion-formers in the West, though, don't accept this. They attack the faith itself, choosing to overlook the fact that all true Muslims utterly condemn the perversions perpetrated in its name. They don't acknowledge what we have done to fight terrorism. They don't understand that, by attacking the faith, they pour fuel on the flames of fanaticism.

Well before September 11, President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, called for dialogue between Christianity and Islam, between those who recognise the common values that lie at the foundations of both, so that, together, they may confront the cancer of terrorism. So too did the Prince of Wales.

There is one taproot of Islamic fundamentalism, an issue that has become a rallying cry for the fanatics. Cut that, and with one stroke the anger and passion that terrorists use to incite violence will begin to wither away. It is, of course, the Arab-Israeli problem. Sadly, it has taken a third Gulf war to get the West to focus once again on this conflict.

The UAE had hoped that war in Iraq could be avoided. We called, prior to the conflict, for Saddam Hussain to go into exile. Of course the world is a better place without him, and we look forward to the emergence of a government in Baghdad that is representative of all the components of Iraqi society.

In the emirates we have been heartened by the way in which Britain has argued, publicly and forcefully, for a solution that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state and security for Israel within its own internationally-recognised borders. Arab states have offered to recognise Israel in exchange for a peace agreement that also includes the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. When this offer was made, at the Arab Summit in Beirut over a year ago, little progress was made.

Now, after Saddam's removal, there is a chance to change the course of Middle East history. We have seen how American power can be mobilised, in alliance with Britain, to liberate a people from oppression and to remove a government flouting UN resolutions. Yet we see daily that in the case of Israel, ignoring UN resolutions and imposing a brutal occupation on most of the West Bank and Gaza, the international community seems unprepared to act.

We shall support the success of the roadmap. But we feel it is important that the roadmap be implemented in the form it was first announced. Sheikh Khalifa, when he meets Tony Blair, will express the UAE's belief that support for the roadmap must be unconditional.

By working to bring about such a just and lasting solution to this conflict we can write a bright new chapter in the history of relations between Europe and the Middle East, between the Arabs and the West. If the opportunity is missed, however, then those of us in the Arab world who look to the West as partners will find it increasingly difficult to argue against those who claim the West will never behave objectively and fairly towards the Muslim east. And in that would lie dangers for us all. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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