Aspa is a source for solutions to challenges, say leaders
The 4th Summit of South American-Arab Countries started with promises of improvement, but both regions face many present-day problems, with some of them with roots from a long time ago.
Ryiadh – The 4th Summit South American-Arab Countries (Aspa, in the Portuguese and Spanish acronym) started this Tuesday (4th) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with an eye on the future, but with very present-day problems in both regions and ties with the past. If, on the one hand, leaders of the 34 countries supported the sustainable development goals of the United Nations for 2030 and ambitious commitments for the UN`s Climate Change Conference (COP 21), which will take place in Paris on December, on the other they have to deal with conflicts that plague nations in the Middle East and North Africa – ones which generate mass migration –, a weak world economy, low prices of their main exporting commodities and the ever-present conflict between Israel and Palestine. However, the bi-regional cooperation was elected as a source of solutions for many challenges.
Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Egypt`s president, underscored that parts of the Arab world “are at risk of dismantling themselves”, referring to the civil wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, and that the actions of extremists in the region lead to “secessionism and anarchy”. The fight against terrorism is one of the main concerns of the Arab leaders. Egypt holds the presidency of the Arab League Summit and, therefore, Sisi was one of the speakers at the opening.
In turn, the vice-president of Uruguay, the country now holding Unasul`s presidency, emphasized that the decline in the prices of oil and agricultural commodities ended a “cycle of bonanza that favored the economic development” of both regions and that this “new environment” requires the finding of new alternatives to keep the growth, and he supported the use of so-called South-South cooperation between developing nations to reach UN`s post-2015 goals and to fight climate change.
Nabil Al-Arabi, secretary-general of the Arab League, in his turn, said that peace between Israel and Palestine “is the key for peace in the Arab world” and would solve “the instability issue in the region”. “Without solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, nothing can be done”, he declared.
Brazil`s minister of Foreign Affairs, Mauro Vieira, who sat at the speaker`s table because the country was the initiator and hosted the first Aspa in 2005, listed Brazil`s positioning regarding the majority of issued being discussed. He declared, for instance, that the South-South cooperation “must guide itself by sustainable development”; that Brazil is a “welcoming country” and stands “with open arms to the refugees”; that the nation “believes in a pacific solution to conflicts”; that “it`s against all forms of terrorism”, and that, in the case of Palestine, it supports the two-state solution based on 1967 borders and the resume of negotiations.
Invited to the event, the UN`s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, mentioned the South-American countries as examples in the reception of refugees from the Arab conflicts and in the progress of “empowerment” of women, a policy he supported with an emphasis. Saudi Arabia, the host country of the summit, is extremely conservative regarding women`s rights. “Women can and must be able to drive progress”, he added.
However, the leaders also underscored the improvement in relations between the two regions in the last ten years since the first Aspa. Sisi, for instance, said that trade jumped from USD 6 billion to USD 33 billion in the period and supported the “opening of new cooperation horizons”.
“There was a good pace of activities between the summits”, added Mauro Vieira. He pointed out that, in addition to trade, mutual investments increased and several direct air routes were created.
Vieira said also that Brazil welcomes the recommendations made to the governments by the 4th Business Forum South-American-Arab Countries that took place in Riyadh last Sunday, and pointed out the work done by the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and by the Council of Saudi Chambers, both organizers of the event. Among the suggestions by the business owners, the minister mentioned the proposal for the creation of joint ventures in the areas of logistics and transportation. The minister also supported the efforts of both regions to free up trade, especially in the next meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which will take place in Nairobi, Kenya.
In his welcome speech, Saudi Arabia`s king, Salman Bin Abdulaziz, pointed out the importance of the “strengthening of our relations [between both regions] for the well-being of our people”, of commercial and economic convergence, and of cooperation in science, technology and other sectors.
Along the same lines, Sisi said: “Our political will and, especially, our common cultural values will help to bring our regions closer”. He suggested also a cooperation in the security sector, an issue of extreme importance to the Arabs, since “only then we will stand up to terrorism”, and also investments and exchange programs in education and culture as solutions for the same problem. “Egypt is intent on becoming a model of cooperation among peoples”, he said.
The opening of the summit was held at the sumptuous King Abdulaziz International Conference Centre, located near the Al-Yamamah Royal Palace in Riyadh. In attendance were the kings of Jordan, Abdullah II, Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the presidents of Iraq, Mohammed Fuad, of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, of the Comoro Islands, Ikililou Dhoinine, Qatar`s Emir, Tamin Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the prime ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Mahammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Emir of Dubai), of Tunisia, Habib Essid, of Kuwait, Jaber Al Sabah, of Morocco, Abdullah Bin Keran, and of Peru, Pedro Cateriano, the vice-president of Argentina, Amado Boudou, in addition to the ministers and other leaders of the 34 Arab and South American countries.
The 4th Aspa will end this Wednesday with the signing of a final declaration, which was negotiated until Tuesday morning.
*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani