Gargash calls for Arab unity to counter Iran and Turkey

Regional issues need to be resolved internally, Minister of State says

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, speaks at an event at Chatham House in London, Britain July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
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Arab states must solve the region's problems among themselves, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said on Friday as he called for an end to Iranian and Turkish inference in the region.

"Achieving stability in our region is not a task we can leave to America or Europe. We regional states have to take our future into our own hands," Dr Gargash told a discussion on "Middle East in Turmoil: Achieving Lasting Stability" at the annual Globsec forum in Bratislava.

"In this new fluid international system we must go beyond fear. We have a responsibility to find our own solutions to bring peace and stability to the Arab world," he said, pointing to issues such as the war in Syria, the threat from Iran, violence in Gaza, instability in Libya, the Houthi insurrection in Yemen, tensions in Lebanon, and a "far from stable Iraq".

Dr Gargash called for a reinforcement of existing alliances in the region as one of the ways to address these. "What we have built with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab partners is a coalition of truly like-minded countries," he said.

Stressing the need for regional issues to be resolved internally, he said: "We welcome supportive efforts from allies with respect to the sovereignty of the Arab world, but we do not welcome the interference of regional powers — ie Iran, Turkey — which set Arab countries against each other or foment instability for the sake of their own interest.

"Specifically, we see the Arab world is torn and divided because our grouping of like-minded Arab states faces competition and hostility from two other alliances put together by outside powers. There is an Islamist group led by Turkey, financed by Qatar, based around the Muslim Brotherhood, and there is an alliance dominated by Iran with Bashar Al Assad, Hezbollah and some errati groupings as part of their proxies."


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Dr Gargash also called for a move away from the tendency to "manage" issues rather than face and resolve them, which he said led to further problems such as the rise of ISIS, as a result of the failure to the Syrian conflict. Citing the example of Qatar, he said: "We want to induce a true change of heart which will see an end to Qatar using its wealth to support jihadism and foster instability in our region."

Addressing the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Dr Gargash said he recognised European concerns but pointed to Iran's "track record of concealment and untruthfulness" over its efforts to build atomic weapons and Tehran's interpretation of the deal as "a recognition of its regional hegemony" that emboldened it to expand its influence though violent means.

Dr Gargash was part of panel that included former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, former top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton, and retired US General John Allen, president of the Brookings Institution in Washington.