Between January 29 and 31, 2006 the state of Qatar is hosting a conference to explore the prospects of enriching the economic future of the Middle East. The conference is expected to attract some 250-300 economists and specialists from various Middle Eastern, Arab, Asian and European countries as well as the United States, especially major world economies, key energy consumers and major beneficiaries of the financial revenues of oil.
The conference would reportedly deal with a host of key economic matters of interest to all countries of the region. It would try to figure out a clearer image about how Middle Eastern economies would look like in the foreseeable post-oil era of openness and competitiveness. Trade-related matters on the level of business and industrial Communities would also be key issues of discussion at the conference, which would also table key energy matters from a global perspective, analyse the current and figure out the prospected situation of the global energy market, the major influential players, and the significance of Middle Eastern oil resources to world economies. The conference would also be a good opportunity for participants to learn about the strategic visions of major Asian economies such as India, china, Korea and Japan towards the on-going developments in the region especially with regard to potential increases in oil prices and the subsequent impact of such a scenario on Asia and the world.
However, the Qatari officials deny that the conference of enhancing the economic future of the Middle East has anything to do with what is called in the USA the great Middle East, although the connection is quite clear for any observer. Why the Qataris seem disturbed by such a connection remains ambiguous. At the same time, the declaration of the Assistant foreign minister for follow-up affairs and president of the ministry’s standing conferences committee, H.E. Mohamed bin Abdullah Al-Rumeihi about such an issue sounds a little blurred. He actually stated, “The Doha conference has nothing to do with that” (Great Middle East) and that “it is about the Middle East and the region surrounding the Arabian Gulf starting from Afghanistan and India, and including many countries such as Somalia, Libya, Turkey and Islamic Republics of central Asia and others”. He stressed, “This area is of great importance in terms of the developments it witnesses while the great Middle East is another political region with other tendencies”.
Such a statement sounds illogical, for according to all the experts of the Middle East and international politics, the Great Middle East lies precisely in the first sentence of al-Rumeihi’s own declaration notwithstanding its ambiguity, as most studies define it as stretching from Morocco westward, through the Gulf to the Islamic republics of central Asia eastward; and it is not understood therefore how it could be “another political region with other tendencies”.
Anyway, this great diplomatic and informative activity led by the small state of Qatar should be underlined. Reports say that there are no less than some 84 conferences and functions due to be hosted by the state of Qatar this year; among which we mention the 3rd US relations with the Muslim world conference, the 4th conference on dialogue among religions, and the Doha forum on democracy, development and free trade .The ministry of foreign affairs also will organize two important conferences on Asian cooperation dialogue. It is a ministerial conference attended by 32 Asian countries. The other is the conference of new and restored democracies in which many officials as well as governmental, non-governmental and parliamentary organizations from all over the world will take part. This conference with its various committees will be reportedly chaired by the state of Qatar for a period of three years.
If such a concern with tolerance and democracy issues deserves encouragement, some questions remains however related to whether all the participants to a conference about new and restored democracies are really representative, and before all: how may new and restored democracies be defined? And where exactly in the world are they to be localized?