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Arab summit approaching

Mar 13,2018 - Last updated at Mar 14,2018

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will host the next regular annual Arab summit. Last year’s was held in Jordan. Arab leaders’ enthusiasm for participating in such major events has been steadily declining. Obviously, and rightly so, they do not expect much. Often, their attendance is a gesture of consideration for the host country rather than a commitment for constructive engagement in any meaningful debate. That is why some leaders attend the opening session and leave or stay a little longer. Summit sessions, therefore, are drifting into mere formalities. Routinely, foreign ministers prepare the summit agenda, the final statement and the decisions even before heads of state meet. Arab leaders, or their representatives, do deliver policy statements at the opening session. They may move after that to a supposedly closed session for deeper discussions of agenda issues. But they hardly conduct open debates relating to the many inter-Arab disputes and disagreements. Mostly, they either exchange cautious compliments or opt to remain silent.

Yet, that is not difficult to understand. Arab heads of state do not view the summits as appropriate gatherings for addressing the prevailing crises in the region. Not only because the summit institution has no power to back any of its decisions, but also because most of the disputes are among member states of the Arab League, which acts as the vehicle for such summits.

The Arab states are deeply divided on all current crises, whether in Syria, Libya or in Yemen. The warring parties in all of those three countries are supported, financed and armed by opposing Arab states. How could it be possible for the belligerent parties to simultaneously engage in war and in peace? How could Arab countries’ armies or militias confront each other on many war theatres while their leaders discuss peace at summits? That is really hard to reconcile.

The Amman Summit in March 2017 did generate some hope. It was well attended. It produced some constructive decisions and visible signals of good will were demonstrated by attending leaders.

But before the promising outcomes had any chance of taking effect, a major crisis unexpectedly and suddenly erupted in the Gulf region, hitherto believed to be one of the last bastions of stability and congruity in the fractured Arab world. The eight-month old crisis between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt — not a Gulf state — on one side against Qatar on the other side, continues to deepen as well as widen the split among the Gulf Cooperation Council members with no visible signs of relaxation of tension any time soon.

The small remaining spots of relative stability in the rest of Arab region have not been spared the impact of the turbulent situations all around. Every Arab country is gravely affected by the general crisis situation.

It is quite difficult to anticipate what kind of agenda will appear before the heads of the Arab states in early April in Riydh, when the summit convenes. Perhaps the best option to avoid bringing the aggravations on the ground to the summit's table is the usual evasion; resort to general statements of good wishes and good will, avoid any reference to specific conflicts and stay on the surface with maximum caution of not stirring the stagnant water underneath.

But if that can help the summit to run smoothly without unpleasant encounters among participants, which may be strongly desired, it does not help in resolving or even discussing any of the crises, the basic idea of such high level gatherings is meant
to address.

However, it will be difficult for the summit this time to avoid a pressing critical issue; the Arab Israeli conflict in light of the US, plan to liquidate the Palestinian question without recognising any small portion of the legitimate, internationally recognised Palestinian rights. 

It is clear that the Arab states are bitterly divided on this issue as well. The division is not just limited to conflicting views on the matter. Alarmingly, it is alleged that some Arab states seem to be adopting the most dangerous elements in a plan put together by the most committed US team to Israel’s extremist positions and territorial ambitions in the Palestinian lands. What is shockingly alarming is the attempt of those Arab states, not only to endorse the US plan at the expense of Arab rights, but to also put immense pressure on the Palestinians and the other opposing Arab states to acquiesce or face dire consequences.

That case might be too tough to be glossed over. Although language has always been handy in inventing the most meaningless, non committal, vague and misleading statements, that also serve the purpose.

Would it be better for the Arab leaders not to convene if the prospects look so poor? That was the case years before. Summits only convened when there were no contentious issues or when the agenda items were manageable. But then they were blamed for not meeting by those who argued that existence of disputes creates the need for meeting not the other way round. That can only be valid if they meet to discuss and solve problems not just to evade blame.

 

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Comments

ANOTHER SUMMIT AGAIN? WHAT HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED FROM ALL THESE MEETINGS EXCEEPT PHOTO-UPS????? THE SUFFERING OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE IS STILL THERE, JORDAN IS DRAWNING IN ECONOMIC CRISIS CREATED BY REFUGEES WHICH MOST ARAB LEADERS REFUSED TO ACCEPT, THE GULF PROXY WARS IS STIL THERE AND THE ENTIRE REGION IN CHAOS WITH HIGH NEGATIVE VALUE OF DELTA "G"!!!!!

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