ABU DHABI, 30th November, 2015 — Dr. Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, has reiterated the UAE’s determination to continue the fight against terrorism, highlighting its symbiotic relationship with extremism, adding that terrorism is not a phenomenon linked only to Islam but has a strong presence among different religions.
Speaking at a press conference at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel in Abu Dhabi last night, which was attended by more than 60 journalists and media people from Arab and foreign countries who are being hosted by the National Media Council for the 44th National Day celebrations, Dr. Gargash said that the war on terrorism begins with a fight on both its funding, and extremist educational and fundamentalist curricula which encourage its growth.
He said, “I do not accept the hijacking of the Islamic religion by takfiri groups, so we must begin to fight extremist ideology.” Dr. Gargash added that the UAE placed the Muslim Brotherhood on its list of terrorist organisations because of its takfirist ideology, as it did with other Shiite sect groups due to their extremism, which, he said, highlights the fact that terrorism is not linked to a particular doctrine.
The Minister also said that, “This period represents a kind of negligence,” before stressing the need for an Arab project which steers away from sectarianism and one which preserves the diversity of all Arabs sects.
Dr. Gargash noted that addressing extremism requires a collective effort because we all suffer as a result of it, and that the UAE is doing its part in the fight against extremism through wise council with the Muslim Council of Elders, adding that facing terrorism and extremism is a long-term and diverse strategy.
Gargash went on to say that Islam is a universal religion with no specific geographical area, as Islam exists in all countries of the world. He said, “Addressing extremism is not solely an Arab issue, and therefore there must be a collective effort. Terrorism targets Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Belgium, France, Kenya, and Tunisia, and all countries are facing a global challenge, so dealing with it must be from this standpoint, and each region should study its circumstances.”
With regards to the fight against terrorism, the Minister explained, “There is no Arab solution we can export to face extremism and terrorism in the world. Terrorism is a global challenge and the solution must therefore also be global. All states must make a common effort on an international level to counter extremism, and we are working, through the UAE experience, to provide assistance in facing extremism as part of the international coalition fighting terrorism.”
In response to a question about the situation in Syria, Gargash stressed that the only solution for Syria is a political one; however, he expressed concern about the transitional phase there and his hope that state institutions are maintained during any transitional period and not fall into the trap of a political vacuum, prompting the disintegration of these institutions.
The Minister pointed out that “The Syrian crisis is still raging, and the UAE is convinced that a political solution is the only possible solution, and that choosing between Daesh and Al Nusra Front is not a realistic option. Unfortunately we see the marginalization of the moderate and rational voices in Syria which seek to create a civil state.”
With regards to military intervention, Dr. Gargash said that he believes that there will be an imminent involvement whether by Russia, or any other party. “We agree that none will resent the Russian bombing of Deash or Al-Qaeda, as they are a common enemy.
Yet, as for a resolution, the UAE is convinced of the need to find a political solution with a Syrian partner,” he said.
Dr. Gargash also noted that during the past four years, there was always a question involving the fate of Al Assad. He said, “The UAE does not see Al Assad’s presence as a legitimate part of Syria’s future following the civil war which killed more than 300,000 people, yet, we do not want to disintegrate Syrian government institutions, and there should be a transitional phase, but we do not have definitive answers for the Syrian crisis yet, and the situation is still complicated.”
The minister reiterated the UAE’s readiness to participate in any international efforts which require land intervention to fight terrorism, stressing that countries of the region are willing to bear the burden in this fight, as there is no room for foreign interference like the American intervention to liberate Kuwait. “Such a scenario is no longer feasible,” he said, “So the Arab coalition in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia is the alternative model for us as nations,” he explained.
Dr. Gargash expressed his concern that the global strategy to combat terrorism is no longer viable or sufficient, saying that a solution to the Syrian crisis is key to the success of this war, and that the fate of Al Assad, his position in the transitional phase, and his exit subsequently, is what is hindering the resolve of the crisis, and the success of the war on terror.
In response to a question about the UAE’s welcome of Syrian refugees, Dr. Gargash stressed, “The population of the Syrian community in the UAE, since 2011, has increased to 100,000 who entered and integrated in the UAE workforce. There are more than 5,000 Syrian facilities and institutions, in addition, 37,000 Syrian children have been enrolled in state schools.” He added that the UAE continues to support Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
On the Sudanese issue, Dr. Gargash stressed that UAE-Sudanese relations are now going through a distinctive phase, preceded by Sudan’s decision to participate in the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, pointing out that Abu Dhabi has worked with Khartoum to strengthen these relations during the past two years.
On the subject of Egypt, Dr. Gargash said, “The UAE’s support for Egypt to assume its place among Arab countries is a strategic option on which the UAE will not give up,” pointing out that there are parties who have driven a wedge through Arab relations. He added that what is reported by the extremists, that the Gulf States ‘abandoned’ Egypt, is totally untrue, as the UAE’s program to support Egypt is going through stages, which is a strategic choice, and ongoing.
He continued, “Of course Egypt is improving and thus the nature of support varies to restore balance there, and already many programs have been completed but support still continues in accordance with the new mechanisms, as Egypt is still facing long-term economic challenges, but it has emerged from a critical stage.”
With regard to Yemen, Gargash stressed that the coalition has achieved most of its objectives there; firstly, the return of the legitimate government to the country, secondly, the beginning of the peace process in Yemen according to the United Nations resolutions, GCC initiatives, and the outputs of the National Dialogue Conference which was approved by all parties, stressing that the coming negotiations in Switzerland which are set to take place in December, will be based on Security Council Resolution No. 2216.
Dr. Gargash added that the third goal of involvement in Yemen was to send a strong message to Iran that the Arab world’s stance is unified in this regard, pointing out that the time is appropriate now to start a political solution, stressing that there should not be a long transition period depriving Yemen of access to funds needed for development under a temporary political solution, noting that a prolonged political solution would be used by Daesh and Al Qaida, as they take advantage of any political vacuum, and this is exactly what happened in Syria, Libya and Iraq.
Gargash highlighted the absence of non-Arab forces fighting, preparing to fight, or on site, in Yemen.
On the Libyan crisis, Dr. Gargash said, “The Libyan crisis has not yet found a solution, and we hope that the efforts of the new UN envoy will lead parties to reach an agreement, the first step to resolving the crisis, followed by the elimination of terrorist cells and support for the national army.”
In response to a question about the UAE’s relationship with Lebanon, he noted that the relationship is good, and there is a large Lebanese community living in the UAE, but with regard to the Lebanese government, of which Hezbollah is an essential component, hostile statements by Hezbollah with respect to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, can not be ignored.
In conclusion, speaking on Iran, Dr. Gargash said that Iran is an important regional neighbor, and that the UAE would like to turn the page and start with new political relations based on respect and non-interference, adding that the Iranian nuclear agreement gives Iran the opportunity to create normal relations with its neighbors, but the indicators received from Iran are not positive because of its continuous interference in Arab politics, taking Bahrain as an example. He said that if this intervention lasts, relations will be complicated.
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