Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 08:46 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 08:46 | SYDNEY

Middle East negotiation pandemic


Rodger Shanahan


22 May 2008 12:41

Break out the Efez, al Maza, Barada or Maccabi beers, because it would appear that peace negotiations are the new growth industry in the Middle East. First came word that the Qatari-brokered negotiations to end the Lebanese political stalemate had brought results, followed by a formal announcement that Turkish-brokered peace talks between Israel and Syria were occurring in Turkey, although approaches between the two countries were a not-so-open secret prior to this.
Before people start to down their arak and dance the dabka in celebration, there is much water to pass under the bridge before any concrete results can be hoped for on the Israeli-Syrian track. Not least is the shaky political position of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, who will need all the political capital he can muster to advance what are sure to be delicate and drawn-out discussions.
On the Lebanese front, there is more cause for hope. General Suleiman is likely to fill the presidential vacancy in the next few days, with the potential he will act as a lightning rod for Christian unity. Hizbullah has gained its sought after veto power in the new 'unity government' structure and didn't have to discuss its weapons in Doha, and Saad Hariri may well become the next prime minister despite his Future Movement being hounded off the streets of West Beirut by Shi'a forces less than two weeks ago. Essentially something in it for everyone until the 2009 parliamentary elections.
While all of this is undoubtedly good news in a region that has had more than its fair share of the bad, it is far too early in either case to determine whether these talks represent the beginning of a long-term resolution or just another false dawn.