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The Arab summit - challenges and aspirations

Kuwait is optimistic for the upcoming Arab summit, but the challenges facing Arab leaders are grave

Said Shehata , Sunday 23 Mar 2014
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There is optimism in Kuwait about the positive results of the Arab summit which will be held in Kuwait on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

For example, the Kuwaiti Minister of Information, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, told me in a special interview that optimism accompanied by hard work is the way forward to overcome the current problems of the Arab world.

There are four main challenges. First, the tension between Qatar and Egypt, and between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain, because of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It looks like Qatar will not be represented at a high level at this summit because of those disputes. The Qatari issue is not on the agenda of topics to be discussed, but it will be present at the bilateral meetings and conversations of the states’ delegations.  It is difficult to imagine the summit achieving its goals by creating an environment of Arab solidarity and cooperation in the absence of high-level of Qatari representation.

However, Minster Al-Sabah said that there is still the possibility that Qatar will be represented, as this is yet to be decided. Arguably, it is an unlikely possibility.

The second challenge facing delegates is the Syrian crisis. There are different views among the Arab states present on how to end the bloody violence in Syria. While the majority of Arab countries and the Arab League as an organisation believe that a political solution is the way forward, a few countries support military intervention to get rid of the Assad regime and build a new Syria.

The confusion and the disjointed position of the Arab states towards the Syrian dilemma could be resolved at this summit if Saudi Arabia and Qatar join the Arab League and adopt a political solution, laying out concrete steps to see this scenario through.

The third challenge is the Palestinian issue. Previous summit resolutions and recommendations were not implemented. Israel has been doing what it likes, including building settlements, with no sign of an independent Palestinian state in sight. Will this summit reach a concrete resolution towards building the long awaited state for Palestinians?

The task is an immense challenge; failure to achieve this goal will deepen doubts about the effectiveness of the Arab League and the despair of Palestinians.

The fourth dilemma is the functioning of the Arab League. Developing the Arab League as an institution will be discussed during the summit -- but to what extent there is a political will to make the Arab League strong and efficient as the European Union? The Arab League has faced many problems since its establishment and there is an urgent need for change, if the league is to play an effective role.

While there are challenges and hurdles, there are also aspirations to overcome the current miserable situation. Those aspirations were clearly expressed by the Minister Al-Sabah. He places big hopes on the Arab media to play their part during the summit.

“The Arab media has a big role to play in order to awaken the Arabs to face their problems,’’ he told me.

He added that there is a need to implement an ethical code to avoid using the media to damage political relations between Arab countries. Arab countries might then go forward and forget their differences in order to put an end to both the Palestinian and Syrian dilemmas.

Kuwait has certainly done its best to make it successful, and hopes are high. But this optimism must be kept in perspective. There are still suspicions and concerns and there may be a long wait to see the summit bear fruit. 

 

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