Interview with Amr Moussa

The problems faced by Iraq will not be solved by the  West but by the Arab world, says Amr Moussa.  He has been Secretary-General of the League of Arab States since May 2001.

Amr Moussa has been Secretary General of the League of Arab States since 2001. The organisation consists of 22 countries from the Arab world. An Egyptian national, Moussa has been working towards building bridges not only within that group but to the non-Arab world.

He says he is focused on resolving conflicts in the Middle East to make the world a safer place. He's also looking at the delicate issue of terrorism in the Muslim world.

RT: Many people have expectations that the Arab League will resolve conflicts in the Middle East. Do you see that happening? You have being working on it since 2001 and one may say that the results have not really met the expectations of the many people in the Arab world itself.

A.M.: Yes, you are right and I accept that because we're not the only player. A lot of foreign fingers are in an area that goes through war like the war in Iraq or the Arab-Israeli conflict with all its damage – regional and international. With all the fingers, with all the influence, with all the money, with all the weapons… So you can not blame the Arab League or any other organisation. Even the UN is being blamed for that because no problem was really resolved. And some problems have run even worse, to a more serious situation.

But we're trying. And now we're very active in closing as many gaps as we can. Lebanon – the Arab League was very active to contain in Lebanon. The Arab League was the owner of the Arab Peace Initiative. It was launched back in 2002 in Beirut. So in Sudan and Darfur we're doing a lot… in Somalia.

But you can't really contain all those developments without full and sincere cooperation from big powers and regional and international organisations. We're working with the UN as usual and with the African Union. Three of us are trying our best in Darfur, trying our best in Somali, trying our best now to deal with piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and in the mouth of the Red sea.

So we have a lot of problems and we're working to contain them, I can’t say to solve them but just to contain them at some time – and to solve them later on.

RT: What about fighting terrorism and the initiatives you are taking? Because there are many states in the Arab League that have been hit by terrorism and at the same time have been accused of perhaps shielding or funding terrorists? How do you actually resolve this?

A.M.: This is a false accusation. We don't really give it much importance. But terrorism is an international phenomenon – an international plague I must say – that has to be stopped and has to be resisted. So the war against terrorism, if it is conducted in a reasonable way with international cooperation, and goals are accepted by all of us… And what I mean by wise policy is not to just jump with a first fire and say, “Ah, yes, those are the Muslims”, no, that's not correct. International terrorism – because it is international – has several elements in forming the mind, and the actions, the plans, the crimes of those terrorists.

We have seen them in the 15 years or so in Latin America, in Europe, in Asia. And now we have seen it in New York and so on. So our action has to be when all of us – on one side – all of us reject terrorism and cooperate together in order to check terrorists. And we're ready for that: Arab countries and non-Arab countries – all of us, again, are on the same side, in the same boat against such crimes. Those crimes are terrorising societies. And this is something that no government, no people, no society can accept.

RT: What about your view on Afghanistan and Iraq? How do you see those two situations resolved? How would you like to see them resolved?

A.M.: Well, this is an easy question. I would like to see them free from all foreign presence, moving on as new societies, peaceful societies – that's what we need for Iraq and Afghanistan. But the situation in both countries is different.

Now there is an agreement between Iraq and the U.S. that the U.S. has to withdraw by 2011. And by 2009 they need to withdraw from all cities, by the end of 2011 to totally withdraw. And within this intervening period from now until that date efforts have to multiply in order to reach a national reconciliation in Iraq. That's what they need – national reconciliation. That has to deal with and put behind their backs the tension that has been built between sects, between different groups of people on ethnic, on linguistic, on religious, on all this. It has to be dealt with.

RT: And that's where the Arab League would probably want to step in?

A.M.: That's where we have already stepped in. And brought them altogether since 2005, on the famous conference in Cairo, and all of them signed the deal at that time – November 2005. But unfortunately many powers – regional and international – involved in Iraq did not want an Arab solution for the Iraqi problem at that date, 2005. I'm telling you again, there's no other solution but an Arab solution for Iraq as an Arab country. And with their identity as senior member of the Arab League from the beginning of the Arab league. So we're involved.

As for Afghanistan – it's a different story. If you read what President-elect Obama said that it has not been managed well in Afghanistan, that they have to continue to move and then get back to square one. We hope that in Afghanistan also things would develop in the same direction. That the foreign forces will withdraw, the Afghanistan society will cooperate in rebuilding itself. And also the violence, all policies of violence and terrorism and so on – this is a serious situation, that all of us should cooperate in order to deal with it in a way that will rebuild rather than destroy.

RT: Will the Arab League get involved in assuring the world about Iran's nuclear programme being only civil.

A.M.: No, this is not in the Arab League.

RT: But will the Arab League want to be involved in assuring the world?

A.M.: We would be involved, based on the reports of the IAEA. If the IAEA determines that there's no danger, so there's no danger. If there is danger – than we'll have to see it. But this has not been brought to our knowledge. It is not there until this moment that we are talking about. It is just a conflict about a possible military programme. And the negotiations with six powers which take care of that.

So that would great interest because I told you we don't need – the Middle East does not need – any additional military programme, it doesn't need also the Israeli military programme, definitely. So if we can follow the policy, balance policy that tends to read the whole region, from nuclear weapons and nuclear programmes – than it has to involve Israel as it involves Iran, as it involves all other countries. And make it only for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

RT: On the issue of piracy, you have suggested having an armed force in the region.

A.M.: In the Red Sea. And it is now on the table for consideration. And I believe we'll have to move along those lands in order to maintain security in the face of this wave of piracy that suddenly erupted.

RT: What about American forces that are already there?

A.M.: Oh yes, not only American forces, there are a lot of forces.

RT: So you're not against that?

A.M.: They are in the ocean, by the way, not in the Red Sea. The American forces, Russian forces, French forces, NATO forces, all around the Horn of Africa. That's why I called on Arab countries to form their own naval force in the Red Sea.

RT: And would you approve of what NATO is doing and working closely with them?

A.M.: We can cooperate against piracy, we are all on the same side against piracy; piracy is a major crime. And it has been said that it is the other side of terrorism or one of the expressions of international terrorism. So we’ll have to stand firm against piracy.

RT: But are you against having international help on this issue even in the Red Sea area?

A.M.: Well, it depends on what happens and it depends on the UN Security Council and what it decides. And of course any resolutions of the Security Council to the fact of military cooperation in that vast region would be based on consultations with all of us. And this has not been done yet.

RT: But what's the Arab League’s view on having, let's say, NATO and U.S. in the Red Sea?

A.M.: That's why I called on Arab countries to form their own naval force. And this force can cooperate as necessary with whatever other forces that are there, in the region. But I understand that there're no piracy cases in the Red Sea but around the Horn of Africa.

RT: Amr Moussa, we thank you for sharing your views with us. And wish you luck with your endeavours.

A.M.: Thank you very much.