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Aboul Gheit to Asharq Al-Awsat: Iran Uses Arab Crises as Pressure Cards to Confront the West

Aboul Gheit to Asharq Al-Awsat: Iran Uses Arab Crises as Pressure Cards to Confront the West

Monday, 28 March, 2022 - 10:30
The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmad Aboul Gheit, speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat in New York.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Aboul Gheit said that the possible understanding between the United States and Iran in the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Vienna, “does not end” the Iranian nuclear threat, calling on Tehran to stop its “adventures” on Arab land, and to refrain from using Arab files to pressure the Western world and Israel.

“This understanding does not end the Iranian nuclear threat, but only freezes it for several years,” he said. “The Arab world needs assurances from two sides - Iran and Israel - that the threat of nuclear armament must be abandoned. For 40 years, the Arab world has been demanding the declaration of the Middle East as a zone free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction… This is a key point.”

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat during his stay in New York, Aboul Gheit strongly condemned the Houthi militia’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

“This is shocking and totally condemned since 2019,” he stated, noting that the Iranian regime was seeking to show the world the importance of lifting sanctions on Iranian oil.

On the Russian-Ukrainian war, Aboul Gheit said that the conflict will have negative repercussions on stability and food security in many Arab countries.

“First, it is a major international crisis that threatens international peace and security. If something goes wrong at any moment, a larger war could erupt. For example, World War I accidentally occurred. The calculations of all parties at the time were not aimed at war… It is a concern over world security,” he underlined.

He added that many Arab countries relied on food imports from Ukraine or Russia. “These two sources supply the Arabs with wheat and crops. They will have supply problems. This may negatively affect stability and food security in the Arab world,” he warned.

The Arab League secretary general stressed that the war would also shift attention from many pressing files in the Arab world.

“This will negatively affect the Arab world, because we are keen to see a settlement in Syria, Yemen and Libya, as well as an improvement in the situation in Lebanon,” he remarked.

Asked about the Houthis’ rejection of a recent GCC invitation to comprehensive talks on the Yemeni crisis, the Arab League secretary general emphasized the Iranian influence.

“It is not in Iran’s interest to settle any of these problems in the current situation, as it has not yet reached an agreement with the 5 + 1. This confirms that these Arab problems are pressure cards that Iran uses in its confrontation with the Western world,” Aboul Gheit said.

He added: “Iran is interfering in Arab problems and in Arab land, and this must stop. Iran is strongly present in Yemen through the Houthis. It is present in Syria in the form of armed militias on Syrian soil. There is a very clear Iranian influence in Lebanon. There are militias in Iraq that are said to have links with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. This all has to stop.”

Aboul Gheit called on Tehran to interact positively with the Arab world, based on the historical relationship that extends back thousands of years.

“Show good intentions towards the Arab world… Because this region needs economic development, raising the standard of living and modernization. It doesn’t need bombings and armed military confrontations,” he said, addressing Iranian officials.

The Arab League secretary general said he hoped that if an agreement was reached in Vienna, it would encourage Iran to stop interfering in the region.

“Since I was the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, from 2004, 2005 and 2006, I have seen that Iran is using many Arab problems as pressure cards on the Western world and on Israel. So it has to stop,” he stated.

Moreover, Aboul Gheit said that the possible nuclear agreement would free up billions of dollars, and thus unlock Iran’s capabilities.

“If the money is used for development, building economic capabilities and raising the standard of living, in a way that benefits the Iranian people, we would very much welcome this approach. But the problem is the adventures on Arab land. This is very unfortunate, and Iran must stop. I spoke to the Security Council on this specific subject,” he stated.

Commenting on the current Arab tendency to normalize relations with Syria and the recent visit of President Bashar al-Assad to Abu Dhabi, Aboul Gheit noted that some Arab parties, such as Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq, were showing interest in Syria’s return to the Arab League.

“Other countries talk with the brothers in Damascus, and establish good and reasonable relations. But I did not observe a current tendency to achieve an imminent return of Syria to the Arab League... The next summit will take place in Nigeria on Nov. 1-2, meaning that we have about 8 months ahead,” he remarked.

Aboul Gheit stressed in this regard that any invitation to Syria must be based on an intra-Arab consensus.

“In the end, of course, Syria will return to its seat. It’s normal, because it’s an Arab country, whose membership has been suspended due to a situation,” he said.

But he added: “As Secretary-General of the Arab League, a decision must be issued by the Arab Council of Ministers before the invitation is extended. However, this matter is not even raised in the corridors of the League… I have not seen any effective effort to achieve this goal.”

On Lebanon, the secretary-general of the Arab League urged the country to “save itself” by holding legislative elections, forming a new government, and electing a new president, in conjunction with negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

When asked about Hezbollah’s role in the Lebanese crisis, he said: “I do not interfere in the Lebanese internal affairs… [The party] is present in the government. As the Secretary-General of the League – I should not take a position on one of the parties in the government. This should not facilitate reaching the required compromises.”

On Iraq, the senior Arab official stressed that the country “fully assumes its responsibilities towards the Arab League.”

“[Iraq] has been fully interacting for years, and is not constrained by any internal political situation,” he noted.

Aboul Gheit stressed that calm and stability in the Middle East can only be achieved by resolving the Palestinian file.

“Circumventing the Palestinian issue through Arab-Israeli settlements is understandable, in the sense that the Arab countries see their interests fall in this direction. But this does not mean that the Palestinian cause has been forgotten. It should not be forgotten,” he underlined.

Contrary to the administration of former US President Donald Trump, the current administration is expressing interest in talking to the Palestinians, according to Aboul Gheit.

“But the problem is that you are addressing the Palestinians without practical measures, and without real action; Why? Because the Israeli government has a strict and hardline approach… The Israeli prime minister reiterated that he was not ready to start moving or talking about peace or even negotiating with the Palestinians,” he noted.

Commenting on the situation in Sudan, the Arab League secretary general emphasized the need for “internal settlement, dialogue and understanding of the desires of the opposing forces, as well as the need for stability and for the Sudanese army to ensure security and stability.”

“I optimistically note a trend in this direction,” he stated.

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