ISLAMIC REPUBLIC MORE ISOLATED THAN EVER BEFORE
ISLAMABAD-TEL AVIV-ISTANBUL, 2 Sept. (IPS) After months of secret liaisons between Israeli and Pakistani officials, the two countries came out of the closet in Istanbul Thursday and announced to the world – in the full glare of the television cameras – that they were dating.
Several Iranian political analysts said the meeting was a “great blow” for the diplomacy of Tehran
Pakistan on Thursday described the Istanbul meeting between Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom as a “gesture” aimed at helping the Middle East peace process.
At the meeting, which Shalom called a "major breakthrough", the Pakistani Foreign Affairs Minister said his country had decided "to engage Israel" diplomatically in recognition of its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
24 hours after the historic shake hand, there was no official reaction from the Islamic Republic, a close friend of Pakistan dedicated officially to the annihilation of the Jewish State.
“As usual, when Iranian officials are jolted and horrified to the point to be astounded at a news they are not ready at all for it, they keep silent until the oracle come from the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i”, the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online quoted an un-named Iranian source.
Several Iranian political analysts said the meeting was a “great blow” for the diplomacy of Tehran, as it would encourage Afghanistan and other Muslim nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia to follow up the Pakistani example.
“What worries more the Iranians is that Pakistan might give Israel full account of the extent of cooperation Abdul Ghadir Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb provided the Iranian ayatollahs and the materials he sold them secretly”, said Mr. Mas’oud Behnoud, a veteran Iranian journalist and commentator based in London.
He was referring to hundreds of ageing centrifuges Khan’s laboratory sold to Iran, helping Iranians producing their own, but more advanced centrifuges for processing uranium.
"Here, Mosharraf gives the ruling stubborn Iranian ayatollahs a good lesson of realpolitik, political courage and responding to national interests", he added.
"We cannot live in isolation. Forward-looking countries perceive changes in advance. They formulate their policies according to the changing world scenario", Mosharraf explained, praising Israel's pullout from Gaza as a "positive step".
Announcing the major diplomatic development at a news conference held at the “Dort Mawsem” (Four Seasons) hotel in Istanbul, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan said: “This contact, the first at this level, is essentially a gesture to Israel to underscore the importance that we attach to the end of Israeli occupation of Gaza and to the Middle East peace process”.
“We believe that this meeting will provide an impetus to the peace process by encouraging Israel to appreciate that reasonableness on its part in respecting the aspirations of the Palestinian people will draw positive responses from the Islamic world”, Pakistani official added.
Turkey facilitated and hosted the historic meeting between Pakistani and Israeli foreign affairs ministers through telephone diplomacy by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with Pakistani and Israeli leaders, Turkish government officials told the Turkish Daily News.
The foreign secretary said Pakistan was grateful to Turkey for facilitating the meeting and added that Islamabad had taken the initiative for the contact. “After the Gaza (pullout) the decision was taken by Pakistan.”
A close ally to Washington, Ankara has long established military and security and intelligence accords with Israel. Pakistan, on the other hand, is also a priviledged ally of the United States.
The foreign secretary said the contact did not imply recognition of Israel by Pakistan. When grilled on any shift in Pakistan’s policy towards Israel, he asserted that Pakistan’s principled position remains unchanged.
“We stand by our Palestinian brothers and sisters in their cause for the establishment of an independent state in Palestine with Al Quds as its capital, he said, adding: “We will continue to support all efforts towards that objective, including the Quartet roadmap and the solemn Declaration of the Arab League Summit of March 2002”, Riaz added, quoted by the pro-Government daily “Dawn”.
Pakistan was grateful to Turkey for facilitating the meeting.
Anticipating fierce opposition from Pakistan's Muslim parties and groups opposed to any rapprochement with Israel, President Pervez Musharraf said he had informed both the Saudi Monarch and the Palestinian leader of the Istanbul meeting and both the leaders had welcomed the step as a ‘helpful’ initiative.
Giving the genesis of the dramatic move, Mr Khan pointed to the visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Pakistan in May. He recounted Mr Abbas’s discussion with President Pervez Musharraf on how Pakistan in view of its key position internationally and in the Muslim world could impress upon Israel the need to move forward with the peace process. He had also mentioned the ‘paradigm shift’ in world affairs.
Pakistan’s main Islamic opposition party denounced the country's decision Thursday to begin diplomatic engagement with Israel, and said it would hang out black flags in a day of protest against the move
Munawar Hassan, secretary general of Jamaate-Islami (Islamic Party), dismissed the Gaza pullout as a "farce" and said Pakistan's stance of not recognizing Israel must continue until there was a complete withdrawal from Palestinian lands.
Hassan said the six-party opposition Islamic alliance his party leads would stage a day of protest Friday against the meeting, which took place in Istanbul.
"We will greet Mr. Kasuri with black flags when he arrives back," he said.
However, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the decision to hold talks with Israel was based on a request from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who wanted them to play a role in helping to resolve the Middle East crisis.
"The evacuation from Gaza is just a farce", Hassan added. "It's as good as robbers entering somebody's house forcibly and than leaving half of it after many years." Mr Khan dismissed the view that the Istanbul contact had been established due to foreign pressure.
Asked what made Pakistan confident that this move would help the peace process, he said all the countries that Pakistan had consulted thought it would be a “useful” step. Asked if President Musharraf would meet the Israeli prime minister on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month, he said there were no such plans.
When asked if Israel’s name would still be forbidden on the Pakistani passport, he said Pakistan had not recognized Israel yet, but stressed that “This initiative is also consistent with the important role that Pakistan continues to play in the Islamic world for peace and security and in the interest of promoting the settlement of long-standing issues that continue to torment Islamic societies”.
Asked if Pakistan considered Israel a legitimate state, Mr Khan said it was a member of the United Nations. He kept emphasizing that the Kasuri-Shalom meeting did not amount to recognition of Israel. He hoped that Israel would vacate all territories occupied in 1967.
Arabic newspaper, Islamic groups condemn meeting between Israeli, Pakistani foreign ministers, as well as plan by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to address Jewish group in New York. London-based al-Quds al-Arabi: talks 'reward' Sharon for 1.5 tons of settlement rubble
"The president has rewarded Sharon for destroying settlements and leaving a million-and-a-half tons of rubble," fumed Abdul Bari Atwan editor-in-chief of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.
"In doing so, he has also rewarded him (Sharon) for continued building of the racist wall and expanding settlements in the West Bank.
"The most dangerous thing is that he has given Sharon these rewards just days before he goes to the United Nations, where he will be received as a peacemaker by the entire Muslim world", said Atwan.
In the absence of official reaction from main Arab and Muslim capitals, due primarily to the fact that public administrations are closed on Friday in most Muslim nations, the Cairo-based Arab League said Thursday that Israel had made “no major concessions to merit such a decision”, referring to the Shalom-Kasuri meeting.
“Every step towards Israel must be made in counterparty of concrete and real measures on the land”, said a spokesman for Mr. Amr mousa, the Egyptian Secretary General of the Arab League, referring explicitly to the end to “colonisation” of Palestinian lands and the release of Palestinian political prisoners by Israel. ENDS PAK ISRAEL MEET 2905