Egypt bids high amid French com­pe­ti­tion on UNESCO di­rec­tor-gen­eral po­si­tion


The Daily News Egypt - - Front Page -

As UNESCO elec­tions on the po­si­tion of di­rec­tor-gen­eral kick off on Mon­day, Egypt is hop­ing to make another diplo­matic gain against its po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent Qatar, yet both face French pre­dom­i­nance.

Egyp­tian can­di­date Moshira Khat­tab is com­pet­ing against Qatari ri­val Ha­mad bin Ab­du­laziz Al-Kawari, who Egyp­tian FM Sameh Shoukry de­scribed in Satur­day press state­ments as un­qual­i­fied and crit­i­cised him for im­ply­ing he could buy votes.

Asked about the fi­nan­cial suf­fer­ing of the UNESCO, Al-Kawari said in an in­ter­view with Pan-African mag­a­zine Je­une Afrique in May 2017 that he “wouldn’t come with empty hands” and that he re­ceived “prom­ises from sev­eral spon­sors and in­sti­tu­tions in this sense or else he would not have run for can­di­dacy.” Al-Kawari spoke on the need to di­ver­sify the fi­nan­cial re­sources of the UNESCO in or­der to keep up with the ex­pan­sion of mis­sions.

His state­ments were seen as in­di­ca­tions of buy­ing votes to win the seat. How­ever ,Al-Kawari, who was the former Qatar’s Min­is­ter of Cul­ture, could be seen as a good op­por­tu­nity for the UNESCO as for his coun­try fi­nan­cial re­sources, but still the Qatari cri­sis has weak­ened his chance to win the seat.

Through­out the re­cent pe­riod, par­tic­u­larly fol­low­ing cut­ting ties cri­sis, Qatar has wit­nessed a num­ber of ac­cu­sa­tions that highly im­pacted its rep­u­ta­tion glob­ally. On 5 June, Egypt, King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia, United Arab of Emi­rates, and Bahrain have sus­pended diplo­matic ties with Qatar on ac­cu­sa­tions of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism.

The Egyp­tian can­di­date is be­ing sup­ported by dif­fer­ent African coun­tries, as a num­ber of African Union na­tions have ex­pressed sup­port to Khat­tab dur­ing the re­cent African Sum­mit last July. Also, the three Gulf coun­tries, have ave an­nounced they’ll sup­port Cairo’s can­di­date for the top seat in UNESCO, de­spite that, be­fore the cri­sis, they were planned to sup­port Qatar.

Still noth­ing solid could con­firm that there is high hopes of Egypt win­ing the seat.

Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence Pro­fes­sor at Cairo Univer­sity Tarek Fahmy com­mented on Egypt’s chance of win­ing to Daily News Egypt, say­ing that“the French can­di­date rep­re­sents the big­gest threat to Egypt, as this is the first time that France nom­i­nates a can­di­date, some­thing un­prece­dented and un­jus­ti­fied,’’ ad­ding that when ex­pla­na­tion was de­manded from France, only diplo­matic state­ments were given to the me­dia on its stance.

Mean­while, UNESCO direc­torgen­eral Egyp­tian can­di­date said she wasn’t pos­i­tive about the can­di­da­ture of French former Cul­ture Min­is­ter Au­drey Azoulay be­cause France is a friend of Arab states and par­tic­u­larly holds ex­cel­lent re­la­tions with Egypt.

“It is not a good thing,” Khat­tab said in an in­ter­view with French web­site Le Point on Satur­day, ad­ding, “there was a tacit agree­ment that France wouldn’t present can­di­dates for the di­rec­tor-gen­eral po­si­tion. More­over, it was im­plied that the post would go to an Arab coun­try.”

Sev­eral pub­lic fig­ures in­clud­ing former Min­is­ter of An­tiq­ui­ties Zahi Hawas agreed that the pres­ence of French can­di­date will make the com­pe­ti­tion very strong among the can­di­dates.

More­over, 28 Egyp­tian, Arab and African or­gan­i­sa­tions have ex­pressed their sup­port for Khat­tab. Among these or­gan­i­sa­tions are Egypt’s Na­tional Coun­cil for Women, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ fe­male mem­bers, Para­mil­i­tary com­mit­tees of For­eign Af­fairs, Hu­man Rights, Man­power, ac­cord­ing to State In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice.

Re­gard­ing the Qatari can­di­date in front of Egypt, and to what ex­tent the fi­nan­cial con­di­tion could fa­cil­i­tate his op­por­tu­nity to win the seat, Fahmy said that “def­i­nitely, the money would im­prove his stance, as po­lit­i­cal funds usu­ally im­pact such sit­u­a­tions.” He con­tin­ued that, still, the re­cent cri­sis stirred fears to­wards Qatar, re­sult­ing in coun­tries to move away from sup­port­ing its can­di­date.

Fur­ther­more, Khat­tab fur­ther pro­moted her­self as a qual­i­fied Arab Mus­lim wo­man who would be the best in con­fronting all forms of rad­i­cal­ism. She also hinted that Egypt is the Mid­dle East­ern coun­try that can com­mu­ni­cate with both Pales­tine and Is­rael.

“As so, I want the UNESCO to work in Pales­tine in the health and ed­u­ca­tion sec­tors like in the rest of the world,” she stated.

Egypt’s in­sti­tu­tions spared no ef­forts to se­cure the vote of mem­ber states of the ex­ec­u­tive board in favour of Khat­tab as the African Arab only can­di­date. While Iraq pulled out its can­di­date Saleh Al-Has­nawi in favour of Egypt, Khat­tab still faces Le­banese can­di­date Vera El-Khoury La­coeuilhe

In an in­ter­view with the prostate Al-Youm Al-Sabea on Satur­day, Shoukry called on the Arab League to pre­vent in the fu­ture the plu­ral­ity of Arab can­di­dates, which in his opin­ion has de­creased the chances of an Arab can­di­date as­sum­ing the po­si­tion.

On the other hand, Qatar, in dis­pute with the four Arab states of Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain and the UAE, has the sup­port of Gu­atemala which pulled out its can­di­date in favour of Qatar.

“The For­eign Min­is­ter of Gu­atemala for­mally sent a let­ter of en­dorse­ment to Qatar’s can­di­date Dr Ha­mad Al Kawari con­firm­ing the with­draw of his coun­try’s can­di­date,” The Qatari Penin­sula web­site re­ported ear­lier in Oc­to­ber.

Shoukry co­or­di­nated a se­ries of meet­ings with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of dif­fer­ent coun­tries over the past months. The last co­or­di­na­tion took place in Paris on Fri­day with Chair­per­son of the African Union Com­mis­sion Moussa Faki and mem­bers of the African per­ma­nent del­e­gates to UNESCO, where Shoukry as­serted the im­por­tance of the African role in pro­mot­ing the Egyp­tian can­di­date.

The Egyp­tian state is back­ing Moshira Khat­tab as she com­pets against Qatari ri­val Ha­mad bin Ab­du­laziz AlKawari. Photo shows a pre­vi­ous meet­ing be­tween Khatab and Prs­es­i­dent Abdel Fat­tah Al-Sisi

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