When the Egyptian revolution kicked off and ousted the regime of Hosni Mubarak, Nabil el-Arabi, a life-long diplomat was enjoying his retirement. It was not long before the new leadership tapped him to become the country's chief diplomat, tasked with revamping Egypt's defunct foreign policy.
His blunt and straight-forward criticism of the Mubarak regime's pro-Western foreign policy earned him widespread popularity in Egypt, but also raised concerns around the world. Many Israelis, for example, were alarmed when he pushed for the Egyptian border with Gaza to be opened.
But before he could really shake up his country's foreign policy establishment, el-Arabi was given yet another job. He was selected by the Arab states to be the Arab League's secretary-general. He inherits an organisation that is already described by many as ineffective. And now facing the most significant challenges it has ever faced, including how to respond to popular uprisings against governments across the Arab world, how to manage the division of Sudan, and the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin met the new secretary-general to talk about the Egyptian revolution, winds of change in the Arab world, challenges lying ahead in the Middle East and what he intends to do about them.
"It's very easy to ask for a change, to destroy something. Change of regime, that's easy to obtain. But what will come after that it's always very difficult to build... All the countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, in Portugal, in the 1970's who went through a transition it took many years...
We are on the right track, because what the revolution asked for was democracy, liberty, social justice and these are still the objectives, the goals that the country is moving to, but it will take time. We should not lose patience."
This episode of Talk to Jazeera aired from Wednesday, August 3, 2011.
Source: Al Jazeera