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Arabs 'must push peace initiative'

Manama, December 6, 2010

The Middle East must do more to promote the Saudi-proposed Arab Peace Initiative to Israel, says a top Swedish official.

The Arab world needs to do more to convince Israel that the Arab Peace Initiative was in everyone's best interest, said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

He said that Israel needed to be persuaded that the region was not its enemy but a potential friend.

'The Arab Peace Initiative hasn't settled in and more needs to be done by the Arab world to explain (to Israel) that it is a different world and this will slowly change the DNA (of Israel),' said Bildt at the closing session of a major security conference in Bahrain yesterday.

He said he hoped the US approach to the Palestinian-Israeli issue delivered, but Europe was willing to do more if it wasn't a success.

Europe is doing its part to further peace negotiations and is still the key financial supporter of Palestine state, and not the Arab world, he added.

Bildt was a panel speaker on the changing nature of regional security issues that was held as part of the three-day Manama Dialogue, which concluded at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa yesterday.

He said that finding solutions to economic and demographic challenges would continue to be a primary security issue facing the region.

Bildt said that developments in the GCC were pointing the way for the entire Middle East region, but there were still obstacles ahead.

'The most fundamental of all security issues in the region is an economic and demographic one, how to provide jobs and opportunities in one of the most dynamic regions in the world,' he said.

Bildt said any discussion of regional security co-operation in this age of globalisation must consider the long-term possibilities that exist and one day must provide for Iran and Israel, which both had much to contribute.

Security plans must also consider the continued development of energy sources, including nuclear power and intent to make the region a nuclear weapons-free zone, he said.

The minister said debate at a forum such as the Manama Dialogue was a good place to start forming regional security plans and officials should also look at the important contributory role that institutions can play in this regard.

More than 600 delegates representing political and business interests from around the world attended the Manama Dialogue, which included bilateral meetings throughout the event.

They include prime ministers, foreign ministers, defence ministers, national security advisers and military and intelligence chiefs from more than 25 countries.

The event, now in its seventh year, was organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

It tackled some of the key challenges facing the region, including the future of Yemen, Iraq, military co-operation and the role of foreign powers in regional conflicts.

IISS director-general and chief executive Dr John Chipman said the event attracted the largest amount of delegates in its seven-year history.

He said there were more than 100 separate bilateral meetings, which was also up on previous years.

The Manama Dialogue, he said, was increasingly being used as an opportunity to launch new policy prescriptions.

Dr Chipman said the IISS would be taking up several of the issues raised in its work and its studies would be widely distributed in English and Arabic.

Cyber security was one of the issues the IISS was exploring and its findings would be published soon.

Work on the eighth Manama Dialogue would begin immediately and it would probably be held during the second week of December next year, added Dr Chipman.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Security | Safety | peace | defence | Arabs | Manama Dialogue |

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