Eritrea real clear politics's Weblog

March 31, 2009

Summit rejects ICC warrant

Filed under: News — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 8:09 am
DOHA: Arab leaders concluded their annual summit in Doha yesterday voicing support for Sudanese President Omar Bashir and rejecting an international arrest warrant issued against him for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

“We reiterate our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the measure of the …. International Criminal Court against His Excellency (Bashir),” said a final statement read at the summit.

Bashir, who captured the limelight by attending the summit in defiance of the warrant, told Arab leaders during the conference to strongly reject his indictment.

Bashir already enjoys strong backing from Arab countries that have repeatedly denounced the arrest warrant issued March 4 by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In his final remarks, Bashir thanked the assembled Arab leaders for their support against the court’s “unjust” decision.

“We will spare no effort in establishing peace and security in every corner of Sudan,” the president asserted. The Sudanese president arrived here Sunday unexpectedly after rumors that he might avoid the summit in order to spare Qatar embarrassment. He is on his fourth trip abroad since the ICC issued its indictment.

The summit’s final communiqué, which was read out by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, stressed the need to bring Israeli leaders to justice for alleged war crimes committed during Israel’s 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip that started Dec. 27.

The leaders also pledged their support for the reconstruction of Gaza and attempts to reconcile Palestinian factions, and to hold Israel to a timeline for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Syrian leader Bashar Assad, whose country passed the presidency of the Arab League summit to Qatar yesterday, echoed calls to support Bashir against the ICC.

“We are called upon today, not (just) to criticize the warrant (which) … we are all agreed is politicized, but to reject it categorically,” Bashar said.

“What is happening to Sudan now is another chapter in the effort to weaken the Arabs … and another stage in the effort to break up Sudan,” Bashar added.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who is leading the Kingdom’s delegation to the summit, held a meeting with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi on the sidelines of the summit.

“King Abdullah, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Col. Qaddafi held a meeting this evening at Al-Bahr Palace in Doha and discussed the summit’s agenda as well as the importance of clearing the Arab atmosphere and achieving Arab reconciliation,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

The Libyan leader disrupted the summit’s opening session by taking a microphone, saying that he was the king of kings of Africa and the imam (leader) of Muslims, before walking out of the hall.

Jordan’s King Abdallah praised the Saudi king for his endeavors to achieve Arab reconciliation. He emphasized the need for a joint Arab strategic vision to deal with present and future developments.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the summit opening despite the presence of Bashir, urged the Sudanese authorities to reverse their decision to expel 13 aid groups from Darfur, a measure taken in response to the ICC warrant.

“I urge the Sudanese authorities once again to reverse this decision,” Ban told the meeting. “I remain extremely concerned by the government’s decision to expel key international nongovernmental organizations, and suspend the work of three national NGOs that provide life-sustaining services for more than one million people,” he said.

During his speech, Syrian President Bashar charged that Arab countries do not have a partner in their efforts to achieve peace with Israel, claiming that the incoming right-wing Israeli government represents a society not wanting peace.

“We Arabs, since we offered the Arab initiative, do not have a real partner in the peace process,” he said, as Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to present his government.

“This (incoming Israeli) government represents the views of those who voted it in … It shows that this (Israeli) society is not ready for peace,” he said. “The election of a right-wing and extremist government does not change anything in reality, for their right is like their left and center.”

The Arab peace initiative, on the table since 2002, offers the Jewish state full normalization of ties in return for its withdrawal from the occupied lands and an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But the Saudi-inspired plan, along with the prospects of peace, faces an uncertain future as hawks prepare to take power in Israel.

UN chief Ban urged the incoming Israeli right-wing government to freeze settlements, stop unilateral actions in Jerusalem and ease conditions in Gaza.

“The new Israeli government must allow people and goods to move (into Gaza). It must freeze settlements, cease unilateral actions in Jerusalem and continue negotiations,” Ban said, while praising the Arab peace offer.

Ban said residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip were suffering and that the situation at the crossing points into the impoverished territory was “intolerable.”

Comoros President Ahmed Abdullah Sambi urged fellow Arab leaders to reject the vote by residents of the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte to become a part of France. Mayotte voted on Sunday to become a full part of France, in a referendum which would put an end to local traditions and curb the powers of Islamic courts.

“The island of Mayotte is an occupied Arab territory and all measures by the occupation state are illegal,” Sambi told the summit. He urged Arab leaders to voice “solidarity with the people of the island of Comoros in their legitimate, legal sovereign right to recover the island of Mayotte and to issue a statement, as has the African Union, rejecting the referendum.”

Mayotte is currently an overseas “collectivity” with specific autonomy powers. The vote means that by 2011 the Muslim-majority island will complete an integration with France begun in 1974, when Mayotte split from three other islands in its archipelago which chose independence and became the Comoros.

The African Union and the Comoros administration — which sees Mayotte as a territory “occupied” by France — have denounced the referendum. “France is the country of democratic institutions, of the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Where have those slogans disappeared to?” asked the Comoros president.

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