Arab ri­val­ries ex­posed as Egypt tar­gets Qatar in UNESCO vote

Doha says host­ing of World Cup ‘not up for dis­cus­sion’ Govt to ex­am­ine ex­pats’ de­grees

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - By A Saleh PARIS:

KUWAIT: Min­is­ters of In­te­rior Khaled Al-Jar­rah and So­cial Af­fairs and La­bor Hind Al-Sabeeh agreed on a mech­a­nism of im­ple­ment­ing the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to ex­am­ine and au­dit the de­grees of ex­pats hold­ing univer­sity de­grees. In­formed sources said this mea­sure will come into ef­fect by the end of this month, when all ex­pats will have to fur­nish their orig­i­nal de­grees and sub­mit them with other doc­u­ments on re­new­ing their res­i­dency visas.

“Oth­er­wise, res­i­den­cies will not be re­newed no mat­ter what the ex­cuses are,” stressed the sources. They added that in case of sub­mit­ting a dif­fer­ent de­gree other than the one used on ap­point­ment, the con­cerned ex­pat would be re­ferred to prose­cu­tion to face charges of forgery. The sources said the new mea­sures will ini­tially be for hold­ers of univer­sity de­grees, and will later be extended to hold­ers of other de­grees.

“This mea­sure will be adopted to achieve equal­ity be­tween cit­i­zens and ex­pats, rather than be seen as some­thing against ex­pats,” ex­plained the sources, not­ing that cit­i­zens are man­dated to pro­vide their orig­i­nal cer­tifi­cates on ap­point­ment, and that the same rules should be fol­lowed for ex­pats, es­pe­cially since many doubts had been raised con­cern­ing the va­lid­ity of many ex­pats’ de­grees.

More­over, the sources noted that this step was part of a process of re­solv­ing the de­mo­graphic prob­lem, along with other de­ci­sions to stop re­cruit­ing un­skilled la­bor­ers from var­i­ous na­tion­al­i­ties in­clud­ing Egyp­tians, Asians and other coun­tries from where the ma­jor­ity of mar­ginal la­bor­ers hail.

Arab states may want their turn at the helm of UNESCO, but the barbs hurled by Egypt at ri­val can­di­date Qatar dur­ing the vote high­lights the frac­tious geopol­i­tics par­a­lyz­ing the work­ings of the UN cul­tural agency. The Paris-based body is known for des­ig­nat­ing World Her­itage sites like the an­cient city of Palmyra in Syria and Grand Canyon Na­tional Park, but it has strug­gled for rel­e­vance as it be­comes in­creas­ingly hob­bled by re­gional ri­val­ries and a lack of money.

France and Qatar were run­ning neck-and­neck in the race to lead the trou­bled cul­tural body after a third round of vot­ing yes­ter­day whit­tled the field down to five. Qatar’s Ha­mad bin Ab­du­laziz Al-Kawari and France’s Au­drey Azoulay - both for­mer cul­ture min­is­ters - had 18 votes apiece in the bat­tle to re­place out­go­ing UNESCO di­rec­tor-gen­eral Irina Bokova.

Be­hind them in the se­cret bal­lot was Egyp­tian ca­reer diplo­mat Moushira Khat­tab with 13 votes and China’s Tang Qian with five, ac­cord­ing to re­sults posted on UNESCO’s web­site. Vera El-Khoury of Lebanon came last on four votes. Thirty votes are needed to clinch the nom­i­na­tion. The win­ner must be ap­proved by UNESCO’s 195 mem­ber states in Novem­ber, though this is seen as a for­mal­ity. Viet­nam’s Pham Sanh Chau dropped out of the race yes­ter­day, hav­ing scored five votes in the sec­ond round. Can­di­dates from Gu­atemala, Iraq and Azer­bai­jan have also given up.

The row be­tween Qatar and Egypt has its roots in the cri­sis en­gulf­ing Qatar and its Gulf Arab neigh­bors which have sev­ered diplo­matic, trade and travel ties with Doha after ac­cus­ing it of spon­sor­ing hard­line Is­lamist groups, a charge Qatar de­nies. “The dispute has been bub­bling for sev­eral months, but what we’re see­ing with the Arab can­di­dates is that they are ex­tremely di­vided. Some of the clashes are quite vir­u­lent,” said one UNESCO am­bas­sador.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most pop­u­lous state which has joined the boy­cott of Qatar, has not shied from mak­ing its feel­ings about Qatar’s UNESCO bid clear. In an in­ter­view with Egypt To­day and re-tweeted by the for­eign min­istry, Egypt’s top diplo­mat Sameh Shoukry sug­gested Qatar was us­ing its fi­nan­cial power to in­flu­ence UNESCO’s 58-mem­ber ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil.

“It is an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is owned by in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety and can­not be sold to a par­tic­u­lar state or in­di­vid­ual,” he was quoted as say­ing when asked about the Qatari can­di­date’s cam­paign logo “I’m not com­ing empty handed”.

A diplo­mat at Qatar’s em­bassy in Paris de­clined to com­ment. A Qatari of­fi­cial at UNESCO’s head­quar­ters also de­clined im­me­di­ate com­ment.

Egyp­tian can­di­date Khat­tab’s first mes­sage on Twit­ter in three months was a re-tweet of an ar­ti­cle in the Is­raeli press en­ti­tled “Is­rael be­moans emerg­ing Qatari vic­tory in UNESCO lead­er­ship vote”. Kawari, the Qatari can­di­date, has so far not re­acted to the Egyp­tian al­le­ga­tions, sim­ply tweet­ing yes­ter­day: “AlKawari tipped to head UNESCO”. Vot­ing lasts over a max­i­mum five rounds. If the two fi­nal­ists end level, they draw lots. “You get the im­pres­sion that some are play­ing pol­i­tics and com­pet­ing for the sake of hav­ing a post rather than ac­tu­ally want­ing to se­cure the fu­ture of the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” said a Euro­pean diplo­mat.

Sep­a­rately, Qatar yes­ter­day strongly crit­i­cized Emi­rati of­fi­cials for ques­tion­ing Doha’s host­ing of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, say­ing that the tour­na­ment “is not up for dis­cus­sion or ne­go­ti­a­tion” amid the diplo­matic cri­sis en­gulf­ing the re­gion. This shows the boy­cott “is founded on petty jeal­ousy, not real con­cerns,” a state­ment from Qatar’s Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Of­fice said. “This de­mand is a clear at­tempt to un­der­mine our in­de­pen­dence. The World Cup, like our sovereignty, is not up for dis­cus­sion or ne­go­ti­a­tion,” it added.

Lob­by­ing firms and in­ter­est groups funded by the boy­cotting Arab na­tions in­creas­ingly have fo­cused on Qatar’s host­ing of the foot­ball tour­na­ment. They’ve pointed to al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion sur­round­ing Qatar’s win­ning bid, as well as the con­di­tions that la­bor­ers work­ing in Qatar face in build­ing in­fra­struc­ture for the games. Such con­di­tions are preva­lent across Gulf Arab na­tions.

On Sun­day, a Dubai se­cu­rity of­fi­cial wrote on Twit­ter that the only way for “Qatar’s cri­sis” to end is if Doha gives up the tour­na­ment. Lt Gen Dhahi Khal­fan later said his “per­sonal anal­y­sis” of the fi­nan­cial pres­sure Doha faces in host­ing the games had been mis­un­der­stood. On Tues­day, Emi­rati Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs An­war Gar­gash fol­lowed up by writ­ing on Twit­ter that Qatar’s host­ing of the games should “in­clude a re­pu­di­a­tion of poli­cies sup­port­ing ex­trem­ism & ter­ror­ism”.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE be­gan their boy­cott of Qatar on June 5. Me­di­a­tion ef­forts by Kuwait, the US and oth­ers so far have failed to re­solve the diplo­matic cri­sis, the worst to hit the Gulf since Iraq’s 1990 in­va­sion of Kuwait. When Qatar’s sole land bor­der with Saudi Ara­bia was closed and sea traf­fic cut off by the boy­cott, World Cup or­ga­niz­ers were forced to in­sti­gate a “Plan B”, in­clud­ing bring­ing in sup­plies from Turkey. Qatari au­thor­i­ties say their ef­forts at build­ing sta­di­ums and in­fra­struc­ture for the tour­na­ment, the first to be held in the Mideast, re­main on track.

Ha­mad bin Ab­du­laziz Al-Kawari

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