Friends of International Law

BERLIN/SHARM EL SHEIKH |

BERLIN/SHARM EL SHEIKH (Own report) - The EU and the Arab League are strengthening their strategic partnership and expanding their cooperation in thwarting refugees. This is the result of the summit meeting of the two international associations, which ended yesterday. This was the first of the summit meetings due to be held in regular intervals. The summit was convened in accordance with Berlin's strategic plans to play a leading role in the "arch of crisis" at Europe's southern and southeastern borders, and counter not only the influence of Russia and China, but also of the United States. Thus, the agreements reached at the summit run counter to US Middle East policy. The participating nations particularly took positions in opposition to the presumed contents of the so-called Middle East peace plan Washington intends to unveil soon. It seems odd, that in their summit declaration, both parties declare international law to be their benchmark, at a time when the EU is promoting a putsch in Venezuela and members of the Arab League are accused of officially sanctioned murder and massacres.

Influence in the Arch of Crisis

According to government sources, the European-Arab Summit that ended yesterday had been prompted by the desire to strengthen Germany and the EU's influence in the countries bordering the Union to the south and southeast. Berlin has been pursuing this objective for years. For example, in the fall of 2013, a strategy paper published by German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) proposed that "German security policy" should "concentrate primarily on the increasingly unstable European periphery from North Africa via the Middle East to Central Asia."[1] The current White Paper of the Bundeswehr, presented in 2016, also describes the "Arch of Crisis from North Africa via the Sahel Zone, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East on to Central Asia" as German security policy's "sphere of activity."[2] Aside from Central Asia, the so-called "arch of crisis" corresponds to the majority of the countries in the Arab League. Government circles now say that "Europe" must take on a stronger role in global policy-making. For this, becoming more active in the neighboring regions, such as the Arab World, makes sense, where. Russia and China are also pursuing their interests. At the beginning of the summit on Sunday, EU Council President Donald Tusk demanded that the region not be surrendered to "distant global powers."[3]

Strategic Dialogue

The current summit is based on cooperation between the EU and the Arab League, which had been initiated years ago. Meetings between both groups' foreign ministers have been regularly taking place since 2012. In 2014, the EU and the Arab League had agreed to a "strategic dialog," which was launched in Brussels in November 2015, included "crisis management" and "anti-terrorism measures." A memorandum of understanding, facilitating also practical diplomatic cooperation between both sides was signed in 2015. Already in 2016, the EU had decided in principle to hold a summit meeting with the Arab league. The summit that ended yesterday was then set at the September 2018 informal EU summit in Salzburg. To illustrate clearly the intensity of their mutual relations, Brussels alludes to the fact that the EU is the Arab League's most important trading partner. That argument is only partially true, because the European powers - particularly Germany and France - are often competitors in Arab countries.

Against Washington

In terms of global politics, Berlin and the EU have positioned themselves not only in rivalry to Russia and China, but in terms of contents also to the United States. This has become not only evident in their quasi-ritualistic commitment to multilateralism, but particularly in the concrete positions concerning the Middle East Conflict and war in Syria. In their final declaration, both sides reiterated their commitment to reaching a two-state solution as well as a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians through direct negotiations, including on the status of Jerusalem, and on the illegality under "international law of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories."[4] This is in contradiction to the Trump administration's Middle East policy, which intends to present its "peace plan" for the region shortly after Israel's elections on April 9. This had been an issue already at the recent US Middle East Summit in Warsaw. The summit was a direct offensive against the German and EU Middle East policy.[5]

Its Own Global Policy

The summit's reaffirmation of the commitment to the negotiation process led by the UN Special Envoy for Syria, hitherto favored by the West, only partially coincides with current US positions. Washington has now changed to imposing sanctions, that not only affect Syria, itself, but any individual and any enterprise that cooperates with official Syrian institutions. This concretely means that all those participating in any way in the reconstruction of this war-torn country will be threatened with punitive measures. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) Recently, several Arab League members have begun intensifying their relations with Damascus, to roll back the significantly stronger Iranian influence in that country with their own activities. It remains uncertain, whether they will unconditionally submit to Washington. It is important for Berlin to be able to implement its own Middle East policy - even independently of the USA - to lay the foundations for developing its own independent global policy.

Thwarting Refugees

In Sharm el Sheikh the debate on measures to thwart refugees was resumed in concrete terms. Egypt, with whom Berlin and Brussels have been in negotiations, since some time, for an accord similar to that with Turkey, is playing a special role. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) Recently, Egypt's President Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi, called EU Council President Donald Tusk, January 18,[8] following informal talks at the EU-Africa Forum in Vienna last December, and met informally with Chancellor Angela Merkel in February in the wings of the Munich Security Conference. The summit's final declaration announces that the EU as well as the Arab League will strengthen the common "fight against irregular migration."[9]

Based on International Law

It seems odd, that in their summit declaration, the EU and the Arab League commit themselves to an "international system" based on international law.[10] This comes at a time, when it has become world known that Saudi Arabia has had a critic of its government murdered in its general consulate in Istanbul. The Crown Prince, who is accused of having given the orders, could barely be dissuaded from coming to Sharm el Sheikh. Photos of Chancellor Merkel together with Muhammad bin Salman would not only have had a very negative impact on her public image. The Egyptian government, host of the summit in Sharm al Sheikh, carries the political responsibility for the massacres that occurred during the bloody crackdown on mass protests of Islamists, estimated to have caused more than 3,000 deaths, as well as the brutal repression of the opposition.[11] Several Arab League countries are involved in the war on Yemen, wherein numerous civilians have been killed in Saudi air raids and by other means, which have unleashed a humanitarian catastrophe.[12] The EU, on the other hand, which also commits itself in Sharm el Sheikh to abiding by international law, is currently trampling the same underfoot in Venezuela, by participating in the attempt to overthrow the elected government, to complete the coup, supported for years by German foreign policy front organizations.[13] In the declaration from Sharm el Sheikh, there is also mention of how they and the Arab League take a stand against "destabilizing actions."

 

[1] Neue Macht - Neue Verantwortung. Elemente einer deutschen Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik für eine Welt im Umbruch. Ein Papier der Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) und des German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). Berlin, Oktober 2013. S. 39. See also The Re-Evaluation of German Foreign Policy.

[2] Weißbuch zur Sicherheitspolitik und zur Zukunft der Bundeswehr. Berlin, Juni 2016. See also Deutschlands globaler Horizont (I).

[3] Eckart Lohse: Bloß kein Erinnerungsfoto mit dem Kronprinzen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 26.02.2019.

[4] Sharm El-Sheikh summit declaration. consilium.europa.eu 25.02.2019.

[5] See also Weltpolitik unter Druck.

[6] See also Scorched Earth Policy.

[7] See also Sisi in Berlin (III).

[8] Illegal migration top priority at Arab-European Summit. egypttoday.com 18.02.2019.

[9], [10] Sharm El-Sheikh summit declaration. consilium.europa.eu 25.02.2019.

[11] See also Sisi in Berlin (III).

[12] See also Assisting Famine (III) and Die Schlacht um Al Hudaydah.

[13] See also Aufforderung zum Putsch and "Den Zusammenbruch beschleunigen".