Arab summit unlikely to convene

Dina Ezzat , Thursday 14 Apr 2011

Against the protests of Iraq, May’s proposed Arab summit to be held in Baghdad appears certain to be delayed, perhaps indefinitely

Arab League

“There is going to be a very long process of consultation, but I think that at the end the summit will be put off. It might be deemed ‘delayed’ not ‘cancelled,’ but it would be an indefinite delay,” said an Arab diplomat who asked for his identity to be withheld.

Speaking to Ahram Online following a series of contacts made by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari with several Arab capitals, in response to the motion of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to cancel the Arab summit, this diplomat shared the assessment of a depressed Iraqi foreign minister.

“He knows that he can try, but he also knows very well that when Saudi Arabia throws its weight around, it is hard for Iraq to face it, especially with so many Arab countries caught in political turmoil,” the diplomat said.

Zebari was in Cairo today for talks with Egyptian officials and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa on the wish of Baghdad for the Arab summit to convene on 11 May as decided by the last Arab foreign ministers meeting. The top Iraqi diplomat offered details of extensive preparations undertaken by the Iraqi government to host the summit that Iraq waited for two years to chair.

Speaking to reporters following his meeting with Moussa earlier Thursday afternoon, Zebari said “it is totally unacceptable to cancel the summit; this amounts to the cancellation of joint Arab coordination and the role of the Arab League.”

The GCC had asked for the cancelation in the wake of complaints by Bahrain — Saudi Arabia’s best GCC ally — of Iraqi interference with the Shia of Bahrain, urging them to call for wide political reforms of the ruling Sunni monarchy.

Moussa said that a decision on the summit will be made by an extraordinary Arab foreign ministers meeting to be held soon. The annual Arab summit usually takes place in the last week of March. This year it was delayed in view of political upheaval across the Arab world.

As of today, it seems that there are at least four other Arab states that are willing to support the request of the six-member GCC.

“The trouble for Iraq is that there are some Iraqi political factions who are opposed to the rule of [Shia Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Al-Maliki who wish to see the summit delayed to avenge political disagreement with Al-Maliki,” said the same Arab diplomatic source.

By Thursday evening, the Arab League had not received an official request for the cancellation or delay of the summit. But GCC sources say it is a matter of time before the letter is delivered to the office of the Arab League secretary general.

Most likely an agreement will be reached during the foreign ministers meeting later this month to delay rather the summit. For how long is open to speculation, and is hostage to unprecedented political transformations still sweeping the region.

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