Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamer Al-Thani, chairman of the board of AlJazeera opened the 9th AlJazeera Forum with a speech, followed by Dr Mostefa Souag, Director General of AlJazeera. This year’s forum is aimed to tackle conflict and change in the Arab region, hosting speakers from all over the Arab world and beyond.
The keynote speeches began with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al-Thani, assistant foreign minister for international cooperation affairs, who talked about Qatar’s position regarding the many ongoing conflicts in the Arab region. He used the conflict in Palestine as an example, stating that Palestinian people are subject to terrorism and the conflict will never be solved unless the rights of the Palestinian people are recognised.
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani stated that Qatar denounces all forms of terrorism, which are an outcome of the denial of people’s rights. “The state of Qatar has always believed in peaceful solutions in conflict areas.” Such conflict areas include Yemen and Syria, which the Sheikh said Qatar is continually supporting.
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani also commented that the main reason for conflict is the growing poverty gap. However, Qatar is working on initiatives to reduce the gap in less developed countries.
In the second keynote speech, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi recounted her experience growing up as a child of an immigrant family in the United Kingdom and starting her political career. Baroness Warsi, who became the first Muslim cabinet minister in Britain, also spoke about the conflict in Palestine and stated that it was part of the reason why she left the British government.
At the beginning of the conflict, the British government had done little to support Palestine. “I decided I could no longer support my government,” said Warsi. The fact that the Arab region did not set clear goals for resolving the conflict resulted in the lack of action taken by the British government.
She concluded by saying that she wanted to be on the right side of history when she took her decision to leave the government.
The third keynote speaker Seyed Mohammad Sajjadpour, advisor to the Iranian foreign minister, spoke of the Iranian position in Middle Eastern politics. He said that “the region is at a turning point” and that the Arab world is becoming more and more detached from its non-Arab neighbours. “The blame game is so dominant in the region and it is endless,” said Sajjadpour.
Iran is an ascending key player in the region’s political positions and according to Sajjadpour, it is also dependent upon itself for security. Sajjadpour emphasised his regret that the Arab world sees Iran as a threat to their security, when in fact they should join together to rally against the bigger powers. “No country has been under so much sanction in the modern international system than Iran,” he explained.
He concluded by warning against making Iran the problem, because Iran is clearly part of the solution, adding “We can change our destiny by working together.”