By Anupa Prathap Mathew
April 25, 2001
Dubai - Increased support for the UAE by the Gulf countries in its territorial conflict with Iran over the three islands will act as a strong communique to assist in a peaceful solution of the issue, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said yesterday.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Dubai Press Club, he said, "All the countries are cooperating with the UAE for the recovery of the islands and Iran will realise it is not just a lonely call, but others have joined in for the peaceful resolution of this issue."
Carter praised the support of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain to resolve the issue. Iran has occupied Abu Mousa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs since 1971. While discussing Iran, he focused on U.S. sanctions against it and Iraq. Carter hoped for gradual improvement in U.S. relations with Iran while addressing serious concerns under the new President, George W. Bush.
He said the recent statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell that sanctions will be concentrated in the future away from policies that hurt the Iraqi people but "focus on policies that prevent Saddam from developing weapons of mass destruction" was positive.
Speaking about the Middle East peace process, Carter urged Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint. "Peace and justice haven't come to the Holy Land. My hope and prayers are that it comes without further delay, for it will be based on justice, freedom, human rights and alleviate the suffering," he said.
"Enhancement of the human environment is not just about clean air and water, but conditions for the human soul to be nurtured, involving the liberation of the human spirit." To achieve this, discussions have to be held, and "for direct talks between Israel and Palestine, both sides have to show that they are willing to negotiate," he said.
"Even though the U.S. has been an influential mediator in the Middle East peace process, it cannot do its duty unless both sides are prepared to participate." Carter, director of the Carter Centre based in Atlanta, Georgia, received the Zayed International Award for the Environment on Sunday. The $500,000 prize will go to the centre, Carter said.
The non-government organisation raises funds to combat disease, poverty and create growth-oriented programmes in developing countries. Carter said: "All the funds at the Carter Centre have to be obtained by me, so I spend a great deal of my time begging for funds."
He hoped that ministries and wealthy individuals from the Middle East would cooperate on projects with the centre, such as that which has helped 600,000 small farmers in Africa, most of them women.
Turning to the AIDS epidemic in Africa he said, "It has been under-estimated by the outside world and is absolutely horrible. "The Carter Centre is working in some of those countries where almost one-third of the people have AIDS or HIV infections."
He believes that a key reason for the AIDS problem is lack of acknowledgement of the issue by African leaders. "The leader just denies the problem, like in South Africa under Mandela and Mbeki, they are still denying the scientific facts about the causes of AIDS. The leaders themselves have to be involved in the process."
In contrast, countries such as Senegal and Uganda, where leaders publicised the problem and worked towards resolving it, have achieved some results. "Botswana is now being looked upon as an experiment for a solution to the problem of AIDS. Merck will supply medicine at no cost to the people of Botswana," Carter said.
A $50 million investment in medicine in addition to $50 million in cash from the Gates Foundation will be given to Botswana. "But the truly tough question is whether you distribute the medicines and cash to treat adults who have AIDS or protect children from AIDS. No real solution has come to the AIDS problem."
But an agreement by Brazilian and Indian pharmaceutical companies to supply AIDS medication to Africa at below-cost price levels are commendable, he said.