UNITED NATIONS — Yasser Arafat’s nephew, Nasser Al-Kidwa, will accompany former Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is scheduled to visit Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus this weekend. Mr. Al-Kidwa’s visit will renew a complex history of relationship between two infamous Middle Eastern families that have dominated the region’s politics for much of the last century.
The president of the Arab League, Nabil el-Arabi, today announced the appointment of Mr. Al-Kidwa as a deputy to Mr. Annan, who was recently named special envoy to Syria of both the United Nations and the Arab League.
Mr. Al-Kidwa served as ambassador in the Palestinian observer mission here before returning to Ramallah in 2005. After ending his high profile, 18-year Turtle Bay stint, the Arafat scion played a minor, mostly behind the scenes role in Palestinian Arab politics. He was said by several observers to be waiting for the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahoud Abbas, to vacate the top post before entering local politics in earnest.
Today’s announcement surprised some here at the United Nations, where two officials who spoke to the Sun last week said that Mr. Annan had initially rejected the candidacy of the Palestinian scion and was looking elsewhere for an Arabic-speaking deputy. But the former secretary-general’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said today that Mr. Al-Kidwa “has been appointed by the League of Arab States” AND denied that Mr. Annan had “rejected” the candidacy.
Mr. Annan represents Secretary General Ban and the Arab League. Mr. Ban was said by several U.N. officials to have “swallowed” the appointment unhappily after conducting an icy relationship with his predecessor. Nevertheless, aides to the Secretary General say that it was Mr. Ban who suggested to the Arab League that Mr. Annan would represent both in Syria .
It remains to be seen how the beleaguered Damascus strongman, who took power at Syria in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez Al-Assad, will approach the renewal of a long history of rollercoaster relations between the Assads and the Arafats.