Ambassador Evaluates Role of United Kingdom
in the Arab World
|Left to right: Frances Guy and rami Khoury
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs
(IFI) organized a lecture and open discussion with Frances Guy, the current
ambassador of the United Kingdom to Lebanon, on December 10 in AUB's College
Hall. Entitled "More Fraternity than Friction: the Role of Values
and Policies in Relations between the United Kingdom and the Arab and
Islamic World," the talk was the first in an IFI-sponsored series,
"The Ambassador in the Academy," as announced by Rami Khoury,
the IFI director and editor-at-large of Lebanon's Daily Star. As planned,
the series will bring resident and roving ambassadors of countries and
multinational institutions to AUB for a day to exchange thoughts with
students, faculty, and staff.
Saying that the United Kingdom is no longer a power-determining factor
in the Levant region today, Guy stressed that the only way to avoid a
clash of civilizations between East and West would be by demolishing current
misconceptions about "the other" in order to build a future
of shared respect and mutual benefits.
She announced the British forces in Iraq would hand over full control
to Iraqi authorities before the start of 2008, and added that the United
Kingdom, through huge amounts of humanitarian aid, has been instrumental
in alleviating the suffering of oppressed people both in dictatorial and
war-torn countries. Nonetheless, she underscored her country's interest
in aligning itself with "the world's only superpower today"
by supporting American foreign policy in those countries.
Ambassador Guy delineated the two significant initiatives toward achieving
better communication between the United Kingdom and the Islamic world
that took place toward the end of 2007. The first was a letter written
by Muslim Arab leaders in October and sent to Christian authorities in
Europe, which argued that the very differences between the two religions
should instigate fruitful dialogue between them-a dialogue that has already
started between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia under the title of
"Two Kingdoms Working Together." The second sign of interfaith
goodwill was made by the royal visit of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
to Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican, an initiative Guy interpreted as
"a genuine acknowledgement that both Islam and Christianity have
a place in the world today."
Guy concluded that without "the economic and military clout"
her country enjoyed fifty years ago, the United Kingdom needs to perform
a succinct reappraisal of England's global position in the twenty-first
century. "For us, the former colonizers," she said, "we
should work harder to remove the friction created by the residues of colonialism
by taking decisive action about major political and cultural issues of
concern to Arab and Muslim Easterners today." In retrospect, Guy
noted that the most fruitful changes have been made in areas where there
was "no colonial baggage," citing the joint cooperation between
the British Muslim population and Indonesia, the biggest Muslim country
on earth, as an example.
In the discussion that followed, Guy conceded that while England's foreign
policy misdemeanors have been exaggerated by political foes, former premier
Tony Blair's government acted unwisely on several fronts. She spoke of
England's long-term refusal to initiate dialogue with extremist groups,
but declined to discuss the British influence on current Lebanese politics
and the ethical and political responsibilities of the United Kingdom's
failure in July 2006 to broker a quicker ceasefire for Lebanon.