I met with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa at his elegant quarters in the heart of Cairo last week — on the eve of the League’s crucial meeting with Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas to decide on direct talks with Israel.
Moussa’s career has gone from strength to strength since I first briefly met him as Egypt’s ambassador to the United Nations in the early 1990s. He was named Egypt’s foreign minister not too long after, and then moved on to head the Arab League. Some say he had become too popular on the Egyptian street, and this was President Hosni Mubarak’s way of sidelining a potential competitor.
There have been whispers about Moussa running for Egypt’s highest political office in elections next year, particularly as rumors swirl about Mubarak’s losing battle with cancer. But the Arab League chief is firmly focused on the most contentious issue in the Middle East right now – the troubled, never-ending “peace process” between Palestinians and Israelis.
In a candid conversation with Moussa just hours before the first Arab foreign minister arrived, he addressed a broad array of hot issues in the region – carefully, but passionately too. A decade in this prestigious – though some may argue, largely impotent – post, Moussa, still has fire in his belly and the determination to do something about it.
What was clear from our discussions was that the Arab “world” is reaching the end of its patience with the regional status quo and the 19-year-long US-sponsored peace process. If genuine and well-intentioned negotiations do not emerge in the very near future, the direction of the region is up for grabs. And Moussa has some ideas as to where it should go.
First though, some thoughts on the Arab League itself – its accomplishments, and even its relevance in the face of decades-long regional stagnation and the difficulties in gaining consensus among 22 different nations: (more…)