‘G-8 Willing to Help Middle East Carry Out Reforms

RIYADH – Canadian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs V. Peter Harder, currently visiting Saudi Arabia as part of his Middle East tour, said that Arab governments including the Kingdom have initiated the process of reforms in political, social, educational, economic and legal spheres with an emphasis on the participation of their citizens in the process. He, however, observed that people in the region feel that the pace of reforms is too slow.

Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, Harder said his visit to the region aims to find out how the Group of Eight (G- 8), which includes Canada, can best respond to the voices of reform. The visit is significant when considering that George Bush wants to make his “Greater Middle East” initiative a top agenda item at the upcoming G-8 meeting. The press briefing was also attended by Roderick L. Bell, Canadian ambassador and Yves Duval, third secretary.

Details of Bush’s initiative are still being hammered out, but the goal is for it to be a long-term peaceful component in the region as opposed to US military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The initiative, largely criticized by Arab governments including Saudi Arabia, consists of a broad “package” of incentives that encourages democratic, social and economic reforms in the Middle East. Washington also wants to involve the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in this effort. Referring to the slow pace of reform, Harder said, “This is not my assessment. This is what a cross section of people ranging from officials to academics have told me about the speed of the reforms process during my interaction with them in the region.” He hastened to add that the reforms could not be imposed by any out- side country. He said, “It will be important for Canada and also important for the G-8 to acknowledge that the Middle East peace process is a priority for us, because it is a significant element to provide peace and stability in the region.

Add Comment