PACIFIC’S NEW ARAB FRIENDSHIP COMES AT A PRICE

Editorial

PACIFIC’S NEW ARAB FRIENDSHIP COMES AT A PRICE

Samoa Observer

APIA, Samoa (June 26, 2010) - Samoa’s undecided on whales. We’re really not sure. They come around here from time to time and we don’t want them wiped out or anything but possibly killing them sustainably is acceptable.

However, on the issue of Iran’s occupation of some obscure islands claimed by the United Arab Emirates, Samoa’s policy is crystal clear. We want Iran out.

Your newspaper is indebted to the The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, for this important and possibly surprising information since no explanation or announcement has been forthcoming from closer to home - for example government buildings.

The National’s report, published by your newspaper yesterday, informs us that political leaders from the Arab League met in Abu Dhabi with a bloc of 14 Pacific island states – Samoa included – this week to discuss various means of cooperation.

But this is perhaps of great interest. The National tells us how the two groups jointly urged Iran to "end its occupation of three Emirati islands through direct talks or the International Court of Justice."

It’s not clear whether the Pacific representatives actually set eyes (far less foot) on these three islands.

What on earth is this all about?

Again, our colleagues at The National can assist. "Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, the (UAE) foreign minister has already funded a US$50 million aid program that would cover what he described as basic needs for the 14 small nations."

It seems the need to keep people informed isn’t sufficiently basic for this program.

But US$50 million? That’s serious money, even when shared among 14 island states – well worth making the right noises over another bunch of small islands surely?

The oil rich UAE with its national airline famous as a sponsor of rugby has been generous to this region of the world. In return we’ve told Iran to get out of three islands – which will no doubt fix the problem and earn the aid.

But what else will we have to fix? Again, thank goodness for The National: "The UAE has a partnership program with the Pacific island states and this partnership has now laid strong foundations which were initiated by the Emirates."

Ah yes, that was the whistle stop tour of the islands by the same Sheikh Abdullah a few months back on his private jet which spent a few hours in a number of destinations while the foreign minister no doubt laid those strong foundations.

So it’s about aid. The usual story – give us some dollars (preferably a lot of them) and we’ll call on Iran to get out of your islands. What else we might do we don’t know because you haven’t told us yet. Doubtless all will become clear (at least in Abu Dhabi) as the relationship develops.

There will be similar meetings, the next likely to be held alongside the UN General Assembly meetings in New York in September and it’s reasonable to assume that if island leaders are invited to attend, air fares and accommodation costs shouldn’t be a problem.

But where does that leave the poor whales? Well, we seem to have our intimate apparel in something of a knot over these mammals of the deep. For they are far more complicated an issue than some islands we appear to want Iran out of.

You see Japan, one of our longest standing and most generous aid donors, is convinced it’s just fine to kill whales for scientific purposes, though precisely why the poor harmless creatures have to die for science has never been adequately explained.

Anyway, Japan wants a sufficient number of them on a slab each whaling – no, research – season.

The problem, however, is that Australia, our biggest aid donor, doesn’t want a single whale to die whether it be for reasons of science or lunch. Aid was surely never meant to be this complicated.

So which side do we support? Um, both. No, neither. We take an independent view – which is that we don’t have a view.

Give us Iran-occupied islands any day but please, no more whales.

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