Meetings on forming join-Arab force to start Sunday: Sources

Ahmed Eleiba , Tuesday 31 Mar 2015

Top officials from Arab countries will engage in a series of meetings in April to lay the ground for the creation of a joint-Arab force in July, a decision taken in March

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, attend a meeting of Arab heads of state, in Sharm el Sheik, South Sinai, Egypt, Saturday (Photo: AP)

Officials are to meet in Cairo this month to follow up on a decision to form an Arab joint military force, taken at the Arab League summit this month to face security threats in the region.

On Sunday, Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Arabi is to meet with Egypt's Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi in Cairo. On 6 April, a two-day meeting is also to take place between Arab army chiefs-of-staff and senior security and defence officials, sources told Ahram Online.

Arab defence and foreign ministry officials, as well as legal consultants, will also meet to review the Charter of the Arab League and the Treaty of Joint Defence and Economic Cooperation, with regards to the formation of the joint military force.

At the conclusion of the summit, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced that member states had in principle agreed to the formation of the joint Arab force. While most Arab countries backed the decision, Algeria and Iraq had reservations.

El-Sisi had called for the move in February, as Egypt conducted airstrikes on Islamic State group targets in Libya, after the killing of 20 Egyptian Copts in the country by the militant group. 

Two days prior to the summit, a Saudi- led coalition, including Egypt, had launched airstrikes on Houthi militant targets in Yemen, following a Houthi rebel advance on its southern city of Aden.

While the Yemen crisis received much of the attention during the summit, it was stressed that the joint Arab force would remain separate from the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis.

A source told Ahram Online that a meeting between Egypt, Kuwait and Morocco would then be held later this month to review recommendations towards forming an operational joint military force by July.

"The existence of this force is inevitable," Abdel-Khalek Abdallah, political science professor at the United Arab Emirates University, told Ahram Online. "Some countries in the region do not have the capacity to face threats like those posed by militant groups on their own."

 He cited the Houthi militia in Yemen and the Islamic State group in Iraq as examples of such threats.

"There will be a lot of negotiation in the formation process of this joint force," he however added. "It will not be an easy task."

The 22 member countries of the Arab League will likely hold different opinions on foreign policy, and unanimity on every issue will probably be impossible, he said.


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