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Egypt and Algeria,C*Waiting For Reconciliation.

Byline: Mohammad Salah

Perhaps Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, has found himself in a position that made it difficult for him to intervene forcefully to address the Egypt-Algeria crisis that erupted following the two countries' recent decisive World Cup qualifying match in Khartoum. In this crisis, politics became mixed with sport, while the media in both countries played a key role in stoking feelings of anger, not only among the supporters of both national teams, but also among politicians and ordinary people who have nothing to do with football and who do not even follow football games. Irrespective of the details of the Egyptian-Algerian dispute and the ramifications of the match, with each team sticking to its point of view, the crisis once again revealed the serious disequilibrium in the official Arab regime, and the weakness of the Arab League along with its lack of aptitude. It also exposed the sensitivities between the Arab League members, which prevents the organization from getting involved in disputes between Arab countries, whether it is about borders, or dealing with the consequences of a football game.

In fact, the Arab League's by-laws have no articles allowing the Secretary General and the Arab League's Council to intervene, unless the organization was asked to. Although articles 5 and 6 oblige member states to not resort to force to solve disputes that arise between them, and thank God the situation between Egypt and Algeria did not reach this point on the ground, the two articles oblige recourse to the Arab League Council in order to present the details of the conflict, and settle any dispute between two states, whether through mediation or arbitration. However, up until this moment, there has been no arbitration, and no mediation has been initiated. Also, among the Arab League Council's duties should a dispute erupt between two Arab countries, is intervening in order to resolve the conflict, but only under certain constraints, such as the need for the parties to the conflict to accept to resort to the Arab League initially. Even in this case, however, the Arab League Council's decision is not binding, and so it becomes ineffectual if one of the parties to the dispute objects to it

Meanwhile, Arab states, along with the Arab League, might choose to believe that the matter is only a dispute over a football match, and then everyone decides to bury their heads in the sand, in order to ignore the fact that this issue has become a serious political crisis, or that the Egyptian ambassador to Algeria has been summoned for consultations, or that the media in the two countries are still committing stupidities that go beyond fan "support," and instead attack the dignity, the history, the present and internal affairs of the other country. Moreover, the sporting dispute over a football match is still unfolding at the FIFA level, along with the stances by both sides, at all levels.

In fact, this is not the first time that Moussa has encountered such a situation, having previously encountered similar problems. For instance, his nationality is one reason for the restriction on his movement, and would also be the reason in granting the veto right [on him] to a party that entered in a crisis with Egypt, if it believes that mediation or arbitration is going against to its interests. Also, it is not the first time that the Arab League has faced a test in which it has failed before even trying. The sensitivities between Arab states are stronger than the power of the Secretary General and the institutions of the Arab League to face them, and thus, the Arab world's contradictions are now being solved in [other] forums, institutions, organizations and courts. The Arab League did not even come close to doing the least that could be done, in the Egyptian-Algerian crisis, even when one of the institutions established by the Arab League to achieve its goals was the Council of the Arab Ministers of Youth and Sports.

The dispute between the two countries will be a long one, and will certainly have an impact, not just on the activity of the Council of the Arab Ministers of Youth and Sports, but on every upcoming Arab activity. The ramifications of a football game will thus harm joint Arab action, which cannot tolerate any further undue influence to begin with. The Arab league will suffer in the coming months from dilemmas that will be added to the many dilemmas that are already there. The Arab Summit scheduled to take place in Libya in March will then become an arena, either for an Egyptian-Algerian controversy that saps the energy of the meeting, or a boycott by the two countries' leaders, which will require the efforts of other leaders to achieve reconciliation.

Arab reconciliation will thus return to the forefront of the summit, as it has in the pastC*and will continue to be.

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Nov 29, 2009
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