Mousa, Amr Muhammad (1936–)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

MOUSA, AMR MUHAMMAD (1936–)

Egyptian political figure, born in October 1936, in Cairo. With degrees in law from universities in Cairo and Paris, Amr Mousa joined the Egyptian foreign ministry in 1958. Twenty years later, at the ministry of foreign affairs, he participated in the Camp David negotiations with Israel. In November 1983, a member of the Egyptian delegation, he became its interim leader, representing his country at the UN. Having returned to Egypt, he rejoined the department of international organizations. In 1987, he was named Egyptian ambassador to India. Three years later, in January 1990, he became permanent representative of Egypt at the UN. While at the United Nations, he invited the State of Israel to join the treaty of non-proliferation (TNP) of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

In March 1991, he participated in activities of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). On the following 20 May, he became the Egyptian foreign minister, replacing Esmat Abdul Meguid, who had been named secretary general of the Arab League. As soon as he entered office, Amr Mousa strove to have his country once more play a central role in the Israeli-Arab peace process. In November 1991, he participated in the Middle East peace conference, which was held in Madrid. In February 1993, with the Djibouti minister, Abdu Bolok Abdu, he co-presided the joint Egyptian-Djibouti commission, which dealt with the Somali problem, among others. During the following April, he made many attempts to reconvene Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which had been adjourned four months earlier, following the expulsion to Lebanon of 415 Palestinians, presumed fundamentalists. Between 1994 and 1995, he campaigned against the Israeli nuclear program, as well as against the proliferation of nuclear arms to certain countries in the Middle East that were starting to want them. On 21 May 1995, he was present in Paris when an accord on arbitrage was signed, in the context of the dispute between Yemen and Eritrea on the Hanish Islands Archipelago in the Red Sea, in which his role as a negotiator was significant. In December 1996, at the Lisbon conference, he spoke in favor of strengthening cooperation between the European Organization for Security and Cooperation (EOSC) and the five Mediterranean countries that were considered as "partners" of the EOSC: Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. In November 1997, he was an intermediary in the negotiations between diverse Somali factions, which led to a reconciliation between the parties concerned, signed on 22 December. In February 1998, he became the architect of a rapprochement between Egypt and Iran. During the following October, he served as a mediator in the dispute between Syria and Turkey, concerning Syrian support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). His intervention enabled the two parties to come to an agreement.

On 27 July 1988, he met in Paris with his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, to discuss possible ways of restarting the Middle East peace process, in particular, the Franco-Egyptian idea of an international conference, which Presidents Mubarak and Chirac had recommended the preceding May. On 19 August 2000, following the failure of the July Israeli-Palestinian summit of Camp David, he received the American envoy, Dennis Ross, in an attempt to oversee the continuing of negotiations toward a final accord between the Israelis and the Palestinians. On 24 March 2001, after ten years at the head of Egyptian diplomacy, Amr Mousa was elected unanimously as secretary general of the Arab League, succeeding his predecessor in the Egyptian foreign ministry, Esmat Abdul Meguid.

As soon as he assumed his new functions, Amr Mousa put into effect a plan for restructuring the organization, the principal innovation consisting in the establishment of positions of League general commissioners of important areas. These posts have been given to influential personalities of the Arab world. In July, Hanan Ashrawi, an important Palestinian political figure, became commissioner for information. The following month, the former Jordanian prime minister, Taher al-Masri, was named commissioner for civil society affairs, and the former Egyptian minister of culture, Ahmed Kamal Abul Magd, became commissioner for "dialogue among civilizations." In August, Mousa called on the world conference against racism, meeting in South Africa, to condemn the policies of Israel toward the Palestinians. In late May 2004, while Israeli forces were attacking the Rafah Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, in a show of force involving rocket attacks on civilian neighborhoods and mass house demolitions, the Arab League held a summit meeting in Tunis. It was to have been held earlier but had been postponed over disgreements about the issues of democratic reform on the agenda. Some governments skipped the meeting. Although individual governments and politicians had condemned Israel's actions and American support for them, the League summit generally avoided the subject.


SEE ALSO Ashrawi, Hanan Daouda; Camp David Accords; Gaza Strip; Gulf Cooperation Council; League of Arab States; Ross, Dennis B.