Guyana president attends Arab-American Islamic Summit
President David Granger (C) in discussion with Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge (R) and the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Audrey Waddell (in local garb)
World leaders at the Arab-American Islamic Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President David Granger of Guyana arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday to join other world leaders for the Arab-American Islamic Summit on Sunday. The special summit, initiated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), brought together members of the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), of which Guyana has been a member since 1998, and the president of the United States, Donald Trump.
This was Granger’s second visit to KSA since he took office in 2015, but this visit to the kingdom comes at a very special time for Guyana. According to the New York Times, “Guyana is poised to become the next big oil producer in the Western Hemisphere, attracting the attention and investment dollars of some of the biggest oil companies” like Exxon-Mobil. Granger is going to Riyadh this time with much more political and economic leverage.
According to a press release from the Guyana News Agency (GINA), the summit’s main agenda is to address ways of building more robust and effective security partnership to counter and prevent the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism around the globe through promoting tolerance and moderation.
Granger will raise issues relating to the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and types of loans and facilities that are available to Guyana at the summit, according to Guyana News Agency. Guyana recently joined the Islamic Bank, and would like to see the approval of several pending project proposals.
However, the bank is meticulous and transparent in reviewing and approving loans to support projects in member-states. The process is much more transparent and rigorous than tapping loans from China. The Islamic Development Bank has an “AAA” rating. Over the years, the bank has offered loans worth a total of US124.3 billion to 56 member-states and has partnered with the World Bank and UNDP.
Granger will use this high level event to advance multilateral ties with the OIC, the Islamic Bank and bilateral ties with the 56 members of the OIC. Granger and the vice president and foreign minister of Guyana, Carl Greenidge, are expected to hold bilateral talks with their counterparts. Greenidge is expected to attend the upcoming OIC foreign ministers meeting in the Ivory Coast in July 2017. Guyana has few ties with French-speaking West African, all of which are members of the OIC.
Granger’s delegation to the summit includes Greenidge; the director general of the ministry of foreign affairs, Audrey Waddell; first secretary of Guyana’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Shiraz Mohamed; and the director of da’wah and education of the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), Sheik Moeen ul-Hack. The CIOG has a long history of ties with the Islamic Bank and the Arab/Islamic World.
Sheikh ul-Hack, who was invited to participate in the summit by Granger, said that Guyana is a model of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence and praised the government’s stance on working to strengthen social cohesion in the country.
The CIOG director also noted that the organisation and the administration share a similar position on the issue of terrorism.
“We have the support of our government and we are all on the same page with the same agenda when it comes to peaceful coexistence, religious tolerance and security,” he said, adding that the CIOG had begun to provide a counter narrative to the language of extremism and terrorism through its training programmes across Guyana.
Granger noted that Guyana will use the opportunity to advance its national, regional and international interests and said that the government is aware of the dangers of extremism and is, therefore, calling for a collaborative national effort to prevent its incidence in the country, in addition to the work being done at the transnational level.
With its economic and political clout, Saudi Arabia is looking to assert regional leadership by gathering the large group of world leaders in Riyadh to demonstrate the kingdom’s power. The government of Saudi Arabia is facilitating OIC heads of state to attend the summit by providing air transport to and from the conference, hotel accommodation, meals and internal transport within Saudi Arabia. It is reported that the KSA is spending over US$50 million to put on this summit.
Among the heads of states attending the summit are the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) heads from Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is uncertain if the Sultan of Oman will travel to Riyadh. In addition, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Comoros, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Egypt, Malaysia, Niger, Mauritania, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Togo, Uzbekistan, among others, were expected to attend.
Yildiz Pollack, the foreign minister of Suriname and her delegation, also arrived in Riyadh on Saturday to take part in the summit.