Qatar Emir Opens Doha Forum, Calls For Action On Syria And Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
- Qatar Emir says international community must act to stop Syria’s “horrifying tragedy”
- Emir says Israel should engage with Palestinians to end conflict holding the region back
- Emir says Arab populations want their say in political and economic decision-making
Doha, 20th May 2013:The Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani called on the international community to take action to stop a “horrifying tragedy” in Syria that has entered its third year. Addressing the 13th Doha Forum in its opening session, the Emir said the Syrian government continued to pursue a military solution and ignore the “voice of reason”.
“We feel sorrow to see the revolution of the Syrian people enter its third year without a clear horizon to end a bloody conflict that has left tens of thousands of innocent victims and millions of displaced people and refugees, in addition to widespread material destruction, because the regime has held to the military solution,” the Emir said. “It is no longer acceptable for influential countries in the international community not to act to put an end to this horrifying tragedy and worsening humanitarian disaster.”
The Emir also said Israel should not let the opportunity pass to realise peace with the Palestinians based on two states along the line of Israel’s pre-1967 border, adding that there could not be long-term stability and security in the region without a resolution of the decades-old conflict.
“Israel must not lose the opportunity provided by the Arab peace initiative,” he said, referring to a 2002 Arab League proposal for peace with Israel in return for the creation of a Palestinian state which Qatar has recently made efforts to revive. “Our region will not know stability and security until a fair solution to the Palestinian issue is found and there is withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in 1967.”
The Emir said that the movement of Arab uprisings that began in 2011 has placed Israel in direct confrontation with Arab populations whose support for the Palestinian cause was previously held in check by governments who alone regulated the conflict with Israel. “The Arab Spring revolutions have set Israel in direct confrontation today with the Arab peoples and not only with rulers,” he said.
The Emir also said that democratic reforms in the Arab world must continue since the old arguments used by Arab autocrats that domestic change could only come once the historical Arab-Israeli conflict was resolved - since ongoing conflict necessitated reliance upon security and police apparatus, the argument went – were no longer relevant. “We have heard in the past that reform has to be put aside until a peaceful settlement is reached with Israel, but everyone should realise that such thinking is no longer tenable after the Arab Spring revolutions,” he said.
He also said that political participation in public affairs was a key aim of the Arab reform process, but that change meant more than simply casting votes in ballots.
“We must not forget that prevalence of poverty, unemployment, absence of decent means of living and violation of human rights under autocratic, repressive and corrupt regimes were the driving forces of Arab revolutions that continue to aim for popular participation in political and economic decision-making,” he said. “This means starting to develop the institutions that can ensure the scale of this participation… thus we ensure the practice of respecting other opinions to achieve social interaction based on dialogue rather than violence… The flourishing of the democratic process is not only casting votes in ballot boxes at specific times.”
In a welcoming speech, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani also said the Arab Spring had set the region on a path towards representative government and human rights and, reviewing the forum’s history, he praised HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani for his determination to start the Doha Forum and turn it into a success.
The Doha Forum, a leading global conference on international current affairs, is being held at the Ritz Carlton in Doha, Qatar from 20-22 May.