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Security and integration key for prosperity in the Arab world, Abu Dhabi conference told

ABU DHABI // Security and economic and cultural integration will help the Arab world build a prosperous future, experts from the region said on Tuesday.

They were speaking on the second day of the Fikr 15 conference, which is aimed at finding solutions to the risks, challenges and threats facing Middle East unity and identity.

“The threats that face the security of the Arab world are external regional forces and their interference in Arab affairs,” said Dr Abdulaziz bin Saqr, head of the Gulf Research Centre.

“Arab states lack the unity in their forces that would be capable of intervening and standing against any attempt to disrupt their affairs. But there is no room for neutrality when the time comes to face threats.”

He used the crisis in Yemen as an example of a direct threat to Arab security.

“We witnessed a clear interference of a regional country, so we cannot show neutrality towards this crisis. It cannot be accepted,” he said.

“Terrorism is a dangerous factor that Arab countries face, but it is containable through a series of procedures, while keeping an eye on other risks and the expansionary policy of Iran, as well as the amount of strategic threats it carries against Arab security.

“It is encouraging internal conflicts in Arab countries, which is why regional Arab security is a priority in itself.”

An Arab security network needs to be built to face regional threats, said Dr Mohammed bin Ali Koman, secretary general of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers.

“The council always issues a unified blacklist of people and criminal organisations in Arab countries,” he said.

“We plan on organising an annual meeting to gather officials related to human rights, among others, to communicate with Arab states to find means of exchanging information and security data and intelligence.

“Security matters are always a priority. Even when diplomatic ties are broken between countries, security ties remain.”

Dr Jamal Saif Al Ali, director of legal affairs at the court of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said the UAE was part of that security network, but more efforts should be made, starting at schools.

“This is where all efforts to combat terrorism and extremism should start,” he said.

“If these factors aren’t tackled, then we would be living in an environment that could be easily taken advantage of.”

Others stressed the importance of cultural integration by promoting local culture and openness in Arab communities, as well as economic integration.

“The region is in a state of strategic void and it has turned into one where weapons are used as experiments,” said Fouad Siniora, a former prime minister of Lebanon.

“It’s become a battlefield for the superpowers and has led to the destruction of Arab cities. Poverty, corruption and unemployment are weaknesses that need to be addressed.”

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