Chilean President Ricardo Lagos believes that the summit between Arab and South American heads of state, to take place in May, in Brazil, is going to create the opportunity for both blocs to work together on the great themes of the 21st century.
Lagos talked to Anba, the Brazil-Arab News Agency, during a two-day trip to Egypt.
“I would like to believe that the summit will represent a kind of updating of relations between both worlds,” stated Lagos, adding that, in the past, both blocs have already operated together in a stronger manner at international forums.
The summit was idealized by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Lagos also stated that, like Brazil, Chile intends to improve relations with the Arab world as a whole.
“We already have an intense cultural and economic exchange with the European Union. We would like the same kind of relations to be established with the Arab world,” he declared.
On his trip to Egypt, the Chilean head of state met Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, prime minister Ahmed Nazif, the secretary general of the League of Arab States, Amr Mussa, and the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Relations, Nabil Shaat.
Below are the main stretches of the interview:
What is your forecast regarding the impact the summit between Arabs and South Americans will have on relations between both blocs?
I would like to believe that the summit will represent a kind of updating of relations between both worlds. Some 60 years ago, when the League of Arab States was born, the block worked together with the Pan-American Union so that the United Nations (UN) charter would include a special chapter regarding regional blocs.
At that time, we were already working together, hearing each other’s ideas. The UN charter itself is, to a certain extent, a document that proves our capacity to work together. Unfortunately, after that, and for some time, we stopped collaborating.
I believe that the post-summit phase will represent a great opportunity for us to return to working together on the great themes of the 21st century, among them multi-laterality.
It is evident that on dealing with these questions, we will find a large number of themes where there will be common points of view. For the time being the main topic is the discussion of the reform of the UN Security Council.
Both the Arabs and the South Americans want there to be reforms in the level of permanent members in this instance, the desire is that the organization be representative of the political reality of our times, with respect to the right to veto, for example.
This is the first visit by a Chilean head of state to the Middle East. What brought you to Egypt?
I decided to come to Egypt firstly because this country plays a double part of great influence, both in the Arab world and on the African continent. I visited South Africa and it was now necessary to observe the continent from the Egyptian perspective.
The second reason that brought me to this country is connected to our bilateral relations, more specifically to the fact that we identified that trade between Chile and Egypt is very low, when considering the potential there is for trade between both countries.
When we observe the level of development in Egypt and Chile, we may notice that between them there are a number of possibilities for cooperation and joint work that must be explored.
The third reason for my trip is the sensation we have that there is, in this country, a very important cultural rebirth for Chile, where there is a large Arab community. On the other hand, we would also like to accompany the development of the activities of the league of Arab states.
We may thus find new forms of support to cultural relations and to commercial relations with the Arab countries. Chile participates actively in an important group of international forums in Latin America, Asia, the Pacific and certainly in the United Nations.
We, from Chile, who already have intense cultural and economic exchange with the European Union, would like the same kind of relations to be established with the Arab world. It was with this intent that I addressed the League of Arab States, where a memorandum for collaboration was signed with the institution.
What are your perspectives with regard to the development of relations between Egypt and Chile?
I am very enthusiastic with the result of our discussions, not only with president Mubarak, but also with prime minister Ahmed Nazif. The latter has proposed sending the country Minister of Foreign Trade, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, on a visit to Chile, as part of a visit to some South American countries in the near future.
After that, we intend to return the visit, bringing to Egypt a significant Chilean business group, and authorities in the trade area. After all, there is a possible economic complementation between Egypt and Chile.
One of the state-owned companies that we have in Chile, the national oil company, is working on studies regarding transactions of over US$ 20 million with Egypt. On our side, there are various projects and the Egyptian prime minister also informed me that there is a possibility of gas exports to Chile.