George Hallaq (L), Guyana’s ambassador and special presidential envoy to the Middle East, at an earlier meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia -- Guyana and Suriname will participate next week in a special heads of government summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, commonly known as Mecca.
The leaders of Guyana and Suriname have been invited by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to participate in the 4th Extraordinary Islamic Summit in Makkah from August 14 to 15. George Hallaq, ambassador and special envoy of the Guyanese president to the Middle East, will represent President Ramotar at the Makkah summit. Dr Odeen Ishmael, Guyana's ambassador to Kuwait, who was also part of the delegation, suffered an injury and is under medical care and will not be able to participate.
Henry MacDonald, Suriname’s ambassador to the United Nations, will head his country’s delegation to the summit, according to the foreign ministry in Paramaribo.
The summit has been called due to major unrest in the Islamic world.
“This requires a unified stand by all Muslims. OIC is a great opportunity to reconcile sectarian differences, meet challenges and benefit from opportunities. These are the reasons behind King Abdullah’s call for the summit in Makkah on August 14-15, as the 14th of August falls on 'Laila-tul-Qadr' [one of the holiest nights in Islam] this year,” according to Jamal Khashoggi, a leading analyst on the Arab world.
Guyana and Suriname will use the event to expand multilateral ties with the OIC and also to advance bilateral ties with member states. Guyana and Saudi Arabia recently established diplomatic relationship and are on the verge of appointing honourary consuls in their respective countries.
Over a dozen heads of state have confirmed attending the summit, and among them are President Asif Zardari of Pakistan; the King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad; Jordan’s King Abdullah and Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad attending the summit is a significant development that could lead to improved Iran/Saudi relations, which is also key in Tehran’s effort to establish diplomatic ties with Egypt and make way for Egypt’s President Morsi to attend the upcoming NAM Summit in Iran at the end of August.
A tense to explosive atmosphere is expected that will certainly add more heat to the Arabian summer, especially given that Syria will dominate the summit’s agenda.
Also, expected to top the agenda of the summit is the persecution of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya citizens and the now dead peace process between Israel and Palestine.
George Hallaq is Greek, and speaks Arabic and English as well. He was a cabinet member of former Greek Prime Minister Papandreou. At the request of former President of Guyana, Dr Cheddi Jagan, and at the recommendation of Prime Minister Papandreou, Hallaq was appointed Guyana’s Middle East Ambassador. He is well known in the region and has accomplished much for Guyana in Middle East diplomacy.
Guyana and Suriname are members of the OIC, a 57-member multilateral organisation. Suriname is also a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO).