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Elusive peace in the Middle East; Asian youth and women political leaders meet in Baku

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PEACE-MAKER

By FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOSE C. DE VENECIA JR.

Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

We are deeply concerned over the heightened tensions in the Middle East after the attacks on the two largest oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia.

The assaults affected nearly half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, or 5 percent of the daily global oil supply. Saudi’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was quoted in news reports as saying that “5.7 million barrels a day of crude oil and gas production have been affected.”

Saudi Arabia produces some 9.8 million barrels of oil per day and is the world’s biggest oil exporter. The offensives on its oil processing plants may not only lead to the escalation of oil prices and spark inflation but, more alarming, ignite the flashpoint of conflict in the Middle East, which has been a lingering concern in the global community.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility but Saudi Arabia, the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany have accused Iran of orchestrating the attacks. The Persian Gulf state has rejected the allegations.

We hope the concerned parties will conduct a thorough and objective investigation into the assaults to avoid a conflagration in the Middle East, which would be catastrophic not just in the West Asian region but in the world.

Peace and stability in the Middle East have been elusive and difficult, but we in Asia and the international community cannot turn away from the pursuit of peace because the alternative, which is war, would surely be immeasurably disastrous and make all of us losers.

We wish to mention that the two leaders of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia of the Muslim Sunnis and Iran of the Muslim Shiites, which are once again embroiled in the recent conflict, have a special place in our heart.

Saudi Arabia was where we spent some of the best years of our life as a young, pioneering entrepreneur from the 1970s until the early 1980s. We were engaged in port operations, electrification, and infrastructure in the oil-rich Arab country and, modesty aside, were successful in our business ventures.

Our company then, Landoil Group, managed and operated the Port of Jeddah on the Red Sea, on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, and the Port of Jubail on the Persian Gulf (Arab Gulf), on its eastern seaboard, some 750 miles apart. We also pioneered in building the electricity transmission system in Central Saudi Arabia.

Iran, on the other hand, supported us in our modest foray into political party- and parliamentary diplomacy in Asia and the international community.

The Persian Gulf state supported us when we initiated and campaigned in the UN in 2004 for the Interfaith Dialogue as a way of resolving politico-religious schisms, which the UN approved and has been carrying out.

Tehran, Iran’s capital, is also home to the Secretariat of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), composed of more than 40 parliaments in Asia, which, with all humility, we co-founded, to create the beginnings of an Asian Parliament.

Iran’s political parties are also members of our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), which represents 352 ruling, opposition, and independent political parties from 52 countries in Asia.

We also remember that when democracy was restored in our country in 1986, our beloved then President Cory Aquino also initially offered us to be Philippine Ambassador to Iran, but we politely declined, with deep gratitude, as we informed her that we wanted to run for congressman in the fourth district of Pangasinan in 1987. We instead briefly served, from 1986 to 1987, as ambassador-at-large under the Cory Aquino administration.

* * *

Youth and women leaders from more than 20 countries in Asia gathered in Baku, Azerbaijan, last September 5-8 for the 5th Young Wing and 6th Women’s Wing meetings of our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), in which representatives from Europe, Latin America, and Africa also participated.

We missed the meetings of the ICAPP subsidiary groups as we are in Europe with wife Gina for long–standing speaking commitments and brief vacation.

With the theme “The Role of Youth in Social and Political Activities and Women Empowerment,” the concurrent conferences were hosted by the New Azerbaijan Party, Azerbaijan’s ruling political party, headed by President Ilham Aliyev, who is also the party chairman.

Founded by Azerbaijan’s third president HeydarAliyev, the New Azerbaijan Party has been leading the country since 1993, or for 26 years now. It sits in the Standing Committee of ICAPP, and is ably represented by its deputy chairman and Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ali Ahmadov.

The ICAPP Youth Wing and ICAPP Women’s Wing conducted their respective conferences in Kuala Lumpur, Baku, Colombo, and in Moscow last year, where we also held our ICAPP 10th General Assembly, hosted by the ruling United Russia Party led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who addressed the conference.

We are delighted to mention that leaders from various political parties in the Philippines like President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruling PDP-Laban, Lakas-CMD, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Nacionalista Party (NP), National Unity Party (NUP), Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), and even party-list organizations attended our ICAPP Moscow conference.

As we had earlier mentioned in this column, the 11th General Assembly and 20th Founding Anniversary of ICAPP will be held in Manila in November next year, 2020.

 

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