Arab Summit: Progress impossible?

The Arab Summit took place on 25 and 26 march in Kuwait, where 22 members attended.

According to analyst, rifts over foreign policy will make it harder for Arab leaders to forge a common stand on regional challenges. Points of contention will likely include Syria, Iran and their possible US rapprochement, support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and a verbal fight between Iraq and Saudi Arabia over violence in Iraq’s Anbar province.

According to Ebtisam al-Qitbi, professor of political science at the Emirates University in the United Arab Emirates: “No summit has been without differences, but this one is full of differences. It is distinguished by the intensity of these disputes which puts an extra burden on the host country.” Because of this it is harder to reach an agreement, or make adequate resolutions, the professor added.

Normally the summits are dominated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a topic on which most states share a common view. This changed with the Arab Spring from 2011 onwards, which polarised the region.

According to Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the US-based Baker Institute, Kuwait as host is “anxious to ensure the Arab League summit passes of smoothly and without major embarrassment,” due to the current differences.

The Summit
During the opening session, Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, called for “changing the balance of forces on the ground in Syria’s civil war, because the crisis there had reached catastrophic proportions.”

An attended diplomat stated: “Behind closed doors there is tension, but it is all under the table, no confrontation was made in public.” Some delegates even argued that consensus was proving elusive. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy for instance does not “expect we will leave from the Kuwait summit with all parties convinced that all things are resolved because the wound is deep.”

The above does not sound very promising. After the summit the members made a final statement: “We pledge to work decisively to put a final end to divisions.” They further “call for a political solution to the Syrian crisis in accordance with the Geneva One declaration.” These statements are not (yet) elaborated. Further, it is not clear which countries backed these statements.

The one thing all Arab leaders did agree on was the “total rejection of the call to consider Israel as a Jewish state.”

By Laura Ritter

Sources: Reuters I, Reuters II, Reuters III, Zawya, Aljazeera
Picture: Reuters

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