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Arab world entering a new era with reform in store, former Egyptian minister says

ABU DHABI // The Arab world is entering a new era, involving reform and changes in its mindset, according to the former Egyptian foreign minister and secretary general of the Arab League.

In an interview with The National, Amr Moussa said the region’s young citizens, who make up about 70 per cent of the population, are better educated and have aspirations for the future.

“They reject what is going wrong, they are in search of jobs, a better life but also dignity and Arabs’ rights,” he said on the sidelines of the Fikr15 conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

“Now we know what is happening, minute by minute, day by day. The Arab world [in the past] was different from the Arab world of today. Things now are no longer the same.”

Since the 2011 Arab Spring, during which a number of uprisings took place across the Middle East, the region has grown more determined for change.

“A new perspective emerged and it is our responsibility to reform,” Mr Moussa said. “We are facing the result of a cumulative effect of bad governance for more than 70 years in Egypt. There wasn’t enough attention on education, health care and the economy and, with a population expected to reach 150 million by 2050, this should have been factored in years back, so we plan for the future, bearing in mind the size of the population, our resources and how to manage a good life for all.”

He said the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt had a vital role to play in leading regional change, especially in Syria, where the war has created millions of refugees. “They should move together as a nucleus in the work towards the future of the Middle East.

“It is a matter of concern that we see Syria managed by four powers, two regional and two international, and no Arab partner. They think that whatever they decide will be imposed. Maybe so, but only for a year or two and there will be a very strong intifada against whatever inquisition they wish to do.

“Syria is an Arab country and a resolution of the conflict will have to include the Arab side.”

Mr Moussa said the UAE had proved a wise force in the Gulf and the Arab region, in general, but that any Arab policies on Syria would have to be coordinated.

“We are an Arab world, not just a nation, including the Kurds, Muslims and Christians,” he said. “We have to live together and agree how to live together, solve problems we have, not just regionally but internally, how to manage and govern. Reform in each Arab country is a must and it is going on, slowly but surely.”

A new regional order, including security, is taking place, he said. “I call on all Arab countries not to bank on the continuation of conflicts among them, this is a passing phenomenon.

“All of us talked about Arab differences but this was a crisis of regimes that hated each other, competed with each other while, with the people, it is a different story.

“There is an Arab world that thinks alike, sympathises with each other and declares they will no longer accept to ignore our interests or succumb to the pressures of foreign powers.”

Mr Moussa mentioned the US’s role in the region as well as other superpowers.

“There must be a new way in dealing with this region and its problems, among them there should not be the imposition that this is what Washington decides for the Middle East.

“It will not work. I am interested in an Arab world friendly with the US and other superpowers but it requires the same from their side.”

He expressed optimism for the region’s future, thanks to an increasing degree of awareness.

“The aspirations of the people for a better future is there, which means that the population in the Arab world is insisting on reform.

“Regional problems aren’t going to be resolved according to the same spirit as before. It is a different world and a different Middle East. The world is moving forward, we are part of this system and we want to be a positive force in the new system. That means we have to change and continue to change in order to prove ourselves.”

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The National