KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 ― Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad cautioned a gathering of Muslim world leaders here today of the threat of unilateral sactions from western powers.
The Malaysian prime minister’s warning followed praises for Iran and Qatar, two nations present at the inaugural Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 facing economic blockades.
He said other countries, especially those that are Muslim majority, are at risk of facing similar sanctions.
“Such sanctions and embargoes are not going to be exclusively for Iran and Qatar,” Dr Mahathir said in his closing remark of the three-day summit.
“With the world witnessing nations making unilateral decisions to impose such punitive measures, Malaysia and other nations must always bear in mind that it can be imposed on any of us,” he added.
Iran has been under a Washington-backed embargo ever since US President Donald Trump abandoned a treaty to neutralise Tehran's nuclear weapons programme that took years to forge.
Qatar is locked in a geopolitical tussle with neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which has imposed a trade blockade on claims that the gas-rich country is harboring terrorists.
The Qatari government has denied the charge and called the sanction an attempt at forcing the its tiny country into subservience.
But Dr Mahathir said years of embargo has not prevented the oil-producing country from progress, noting that it proudly stands as a nation with the fourth highest number of engineers in the world.
The prime minister said Qatar too “has managed to rise above” the blockade “and progressed impressively”.
Still, Dr Mahathir saw a need for an economically self-reliant Muslim political bloc that could withstand the threat of geopolitical tension.
“That is the more reason for us to be self-reliant and work towards that with other Muslims nations to ensure that if and when such measures are imposed upon us, we are capable of facing it,” he said.
Observers said the KL Summit was born from frustration by participating nations toward the perceived “hand-wringing” and inability by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to solve Muslim causes.
This has fueled speculation that the summit is meant to forge a new bloc to rival the Jeddah-based OIC, which Dr Mahathir has repeatedly denied.
Putrajaya said the inaugural KL gathering is to address “weaknesses” of Muslim nations through strategic multilateral collaborations.
Saudi Arabia, which snubbed Malaysia's invitation, had mounted a veiled attack against countries that attended the summit. It suggested that such a meeting was divisive, and that the OIC would have been the appropriate platform to discuss matters pertaining to Islam.
To date, 18 successful exchange of instruments were signed in the course of four days, Dr Mahathir added.
Areas of collaboration included advanced technology; media collaboration; centre of excellence; food security and youth leadership and exchange programmes.
“There are several more in the pipeline which are being worked out resulting from discussions during this summit,” Dr Mahathir said.