The debate in the UN Security Council on the possibility of sanctioning the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad dominates the Arab newspapers today.
The London-based liberal daily Al-Hayat states in its headline that “The Security Council tends to accept the Russian reservations” rejecting military intervention in Syria. Accompanied by a blurred image of an exploded oil pipeline in the Syrian city of Homs, Al-Hayat quotes Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi claiming that the proposed UN decision will not produce harsh sanctions on Syria including military intervention, an arms embargo, or even calling on Assad to step down.
The Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat covers the story from the perspective of the Arab League observers placed in Syria. Its headline reports that “the Gulf States are following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia,” withdrawing their observers from the Arab League delegation in Syria. The headline also quotes Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem calling the decision an “Arab conspiracy” against Syria, which agreed, for its part, to extend the mandate of the Arab observers by one month. A-Sharq Al-Awsat also reports that Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi has proposed Muhammad ElBaradei, who just dropped out of the Egyptian Presidential race, as special Arab League envoy to Syria.
Hard-line London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi leads the story from the Russian perspective. Its headline reads “Moscow: the Western draft proposal on Syria will lead the way to civil war.” Its story displays a large photo of umbrella-toting Syrians protesting the Assad regime in the city of Idlib.
Egypt’s ruler annuls state of emergency
The one-year anniversary of Egypt’s revolution is also widely covered in the Arab press.
Al-Hayat reports clashes between youth activists and Muslim Brotherhood activists near the parliament building, amid parliamentary debate on the new Egyptian constitution drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the daily, the new constitution will diminish the prerogatives enjoyed by the military while establishing Sharia law as the main source of legislation. Coptic Egyptians will be able to resort to their own religious rulings, the Brotherhood promises. The secretary general of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political wing, has reassured women in Egypt that no dress code will be imposed on them, “including the veil.”
A-Sharq Al-Awsat focuses on the full half of the cup, reporting that General Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, chief of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the de-facto ruler of Egypt, has decided to end the 31-year-long state of emergency, put in place following the assassination of president Anwar Sadat. A smiling Tantawi in uniform is featured in this story, alongside his call to Egypt’s youthful protesters to establish their own political party.
Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya focuses on Tuesday’s speech by Prime Minister Gamal Al-Ganzouri, his first before parliament. Al-Ganzouri blamed Western and Arab countries for “plundering” the Egyptian economy by not fulfilling promises of much-needed financial aid to Egypt.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, dead or alive?
Attempts to revitalize Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are also being reported widely. Al-Hayat reports that UN Secretary Genral Ban Ki- Moon met with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman, calling on Israel to initiate “good will measures” towards the Palestinians.
Preliminary meetings were held recently in Amman between representatives of Israel and the PA, but led to nothing. Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news channel, quotes a PLO statement blaming Israel for the breakdown of negotiations. “These meetings have revealed Israel’s insistence on continuing settlement building and rejecting the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders,” the communique reads. “Israel and its current government are intent on … taking control of most Palestinian land, establishing a racist regime that tears apart the unity of the West Bank.”
Reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah are also stalling, Al-Jazeera reports. Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum blamed Fatah for the delay, saying that Hamas has re-opened Fatah offices in the Gaza Strip that were closed four years ago and allowed the return of 80 fleeing Fatah officials back into Gaza.
Revelations from Mubarak’s wife
The trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his family member is producing juicy tidbits, and it’s wife Susan who stars today. According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, her memoirs will be published soon, and will expose intimate details of her life. Egypt’s former first lady reportedly liked to be called “queen.” More dramatically, when a warrant was issued for her arrest, she attempted suicide by swallowing a large number of sleeping pills. She also reportedly claims that many countries provided her family with the option of political asylum amid the initial revolutionary chaos, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.