Downer asks Arab states to do more

Former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer. Photo: Dean Schmideg Photographer
Former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer. Photo: Dean Schmideg Photographer

ASHLEY BROWNE

FORMER Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer has called Arab states to eradicate what he called their “culture of complaint” in order to improve prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Speaking at a dinner in his honour sponsored by the Auburn Road Centre, Downer said the Arab world was driven by “process and posturing” as opposed to problem solving.He cited former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as a prime example of this.

“He had the opportunity to become a global statesman, but he was unable to make global statesman-like gestures but instead he wanted to be popular on the Arab street.”

According to Downer, who served as foreign minister for 12 years, Arab leaders need to take more responsibilty for the peace process and to offer concrete steps in that direction.

“Too many of them are still concerned with symbols, posing and posturing,” he said.

Downer called on US President Barack Obama to ask Arab states to take a greater responsibility to progress the peace process.

“He must tell them that they are responsible for 50 per cent of the solution. US foreign policy needs to place much more pressure on the Arabs, but they’ve been afraid to do that for many years.”

“The problem is that nobody has been successful in instituting successful policy for many years, which is why the problems in the Middle East are nowhere close to being solved,” he said.

The function, held at the Leonda Reception Centre in Melbourne also saw the the announcement of the Alexander Downer Fellowship, which will help send people to Israeli universities to study anti-terrorism policy.

Since leaving parliament, he has been working as the United Nations envoy to Cyprus and as a part-time lobbyist with the firm Bespoke Approach.

The ARC was formed last year as a new modern Orthodox shul in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, including many families who were formerly members of Kew Hebrew Congregation.