Arab Summit: Heat behind closed doors

تم نشره في Mon 24 March / Mar 2014. 08:23 PM - آخر تعديل في Mon 24 March / Mar 2014. 08:28 PM
  • A Syrian flag (C) is displayed next to the empty Syrian seat during the opening session of the Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in Kuwait City on March 23, 2014 ahead of the annual Arab League summit (AFP)

By Jumana Ghunaimat

In spite of what the cameras are hiding, what cannot be seen in everyone’s smiles, and the calmness dominating the Arab officials during the open meetings of the Arab summit in Kuwait, the observer can see the charged atmosphere in the halls, and the heat that is coming from behind the closed doors.

The most prominent issue on the table is the Syrian crisis. However, despite its prominence, it did not receive the proper attention it deserves, but was rather, as traditionally known to be, controversial.

The dispute began in Cairo over who represents Syria; what has been decided in the end is that Syria’s seat should remain empty. There were also differences over which flag should be put on the table, even though a Jordanian official denied that, stressing that the discussion over the decision on Syria did not take that turn.

In the end, the middle ground were the safest, as it has always been with the Arabs; it was decided that the Syrian opposition will attend the summit, represented by head of the opposition coalition Ahmad Jarba, provided he enters as the summit commences, giving a keynote and then leaves.

Disagreement over Syria were many and overreaching; one party thought it was necessary that steps to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people should be taken, and an imitative should be put together to the countries who are controlling the conflict, while others preferred the “safe path”. As such, the decision in Kuwait was a continuation of the decision in Doha.

When it comes to Syria, the rhetoric is not in line with the decisions; everyone is calling for ending the suffering of the Syrian people and putting an end to the killing by ending the regime’s violence against the civilians. These calls ended with a traditional decision that does not take any steps towards solving the crisis, but might be even considered a step back.

The other issue that was also discussed is the disagreement between the GCC countries. In this area, a Jordanian politician ruled out that the disputes could come up during the summit: Firstly, so the summit could continue on peacefully, and secondly, that disagreement is considered relevant only to the Gulf countries. The politician concluded with: “We should not forget, though, that the Arab summits have surprises sometimes.”

In total, observers are still watching the level of representation of the countries at the summit, especially after many states, and their leaderships, were busy with domestic issues, including the older sister Egypt.

It seems that the GCC presence is the most important and sensitive issue, considering that their participation on that level sends out an important message about the nature of the relationship and the extent of tension they are dealing with.

To analyze the level of attendance, the observer sees the tension that surrounds the Gulf relations, despite of the attempts of Kuwait — the host country — to alleviate it, at least what it did before the summit commenced.

The results were foreign minister’s decisions that reflect, traditionally, their country’s stance and not new; most of the decisions we have heard and read years ago. Even the typists who are writing down these decisions are saving their energy, writing down “constant item”, in a reference to the continuation of delayed execution.

It seems that many of the Arab summit’s decisions will remain, unfortunately, “constant items”, as long as chaos and disagreement over regional interests are dominating the scene.

Kuwait succeeded in holding the summit, but the participating counties could not exploit the opportunity to bury the hatchet, and finalize issues that could alleviate the prolonged suffering of the masses.

The current summit was not any different than the one before, except for the new emerging crises, which emerged in the last 12 months. We do not know for how many more summits these issues will be delayed. 



This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.