The trend of prioritising summit meetings is cause for encouragement

From another region comes the news of the victory of Prime Minister Yoshirō Mori of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan. The party’s majority was greatly reduced, thereby placing it at the mercy of its coalition partner – the New Komeito.

As it turns out, the public does not seem to be too enamoured by the new prime minister and a newspaper poll has found that 56 percent want him out of office while 70 percent have few expectations of him.

In the meantime, the crises in Fiji and the Solomon Islands remain unresolved. In Fiji, the rebels led by George Speight and martial law leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama are in a state of confrontation. The former is refusing to hand over hostages and insisting on forming a government while Bainimarama’s group is threatening to set up its own administration if the rebels do not agree to the accord. The deadlock continues with no indication as to how it will end.

In the Middle East, the situation is tense following President Yasser Arafat’s declaration that a Palestinian state will be proclaimed in the very near future with or without a final peace deal with Israel. The peace deal would need to cover issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the borders of the state, the future of the Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements.

From Israel’s standpoint, this statement could not have come at a more inopportune moment, as Prime Minister Ehud Barak is fighting for his political survival with the virtual breakup of his coalition. And for his survival, he is depending on the Shas – an ultra orthodox party. Under these circumstances, one fails to see how Barak can meet Arafat’s ultimatum unless the proposed US-Israeli-PLO Summit comes up with a compromise.

Turning finally to Africa, the spotlight is on Zimbabwe where a crisis has been brewing for months due to the confrontation between President Robert Mugabe and the nation’s white landowners. This situation reached a climax after the parliamentary elections in which Mugabe secured only a slight majority due to the headway made by the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mugabe made overtures of peace when he stated that he looked forward to working with the new parliament, improving the livelihoods of the people and developing the nation. It is noteworthy that the Commonwealth’s reaction to the results has been favourable – the Commonwealth Observer Group has stated that it was greatly encouraged by the turnout at the elections.

Britain has also struck a positive note in the statement by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that it is ready for a fresh start and new relationship with Zimbabwe if it pursues policies of reform and national reconciliation.

The recent past has been extraordinary for the number of high-level international conferences, which have been held at various venues on a number of crucial issues facing the world. These seem to reflect a heightened consciousness among nations of the need to meet and work together to find collective solutions to the problems facing the world today.

A major step in this direction was the historic South Summit of the Group of 77, which was held in Havana in April.

The summit established a coordinating group to plan negotiations on South-North and South-South cooperation. This was probably the inspiration for a number of similar meetings that have been held since then. One of them is the special session of the UN, which met in Geneva regarding current concerns over issues such as poverty and employment in the context of globalisation.

Another similar conference is that of the G15 nations, which met in Cairo with the object being to obtain a larger share for the group’s nations in the global economy. This is to be achieved by forming a front that could bring pressure on rich nations to offer fairer deals in trade and debt.

BY  The late Deshamanya
Dr. Vernon L. B. Mendis