Cairo will not lose Arab League HQ: Egypt FM

Ahram Online, MENA, AFP , Sunday 24 Mar 2013

Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr denies there are calls to move Arab League headquarters from downtown Cairo and refocuses on the hot topic of Syria's representation in the League

Mohamed Kamel Amr
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr denies news of requests to move the Arab League headquarters from the turbulent downtown Cairo, Egypt's state-run news agency MENA reports on Sunday.

Egyptian-Arab ties are not witnessing "any disagreements," Amr affirmed on the sidelines of the Arab foreign ministries' meeting held in Doha on Sunday in preparation for the Arab summit. Dialogue and understanding is the best method to manage such relations, he notes.

"There will be a series of meetings with Arab foreign ministries on the sidelines of Sunday’s meetings to discuss issues of mutual concern to be discussed at the summit, mainly the peace process and the Syrian crisis," he said.

Earlier this month, a source told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that the Arab League is considering transferring its headquarters to another Arab country or "elsewhere in Cairo," as the pan-Arab headquarters is located across from Egypt's protest hub, Tahrir Square.

The source told the newspaper that Saudi Arabia offered $50 million to finance the establishment of new headquarters in Cairo.

Cairo has always hosted the Arab League headquarters with the exception of an 11-year gap when member states moved it to Tunis to punish Egypt for unilaterally signing the peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

The League is governed by a charter signed in 1945 and a joint defence and economic cooperation treaty signed in 1950. Amr stressed the need to "develop" the Arab League in order to fulfil the "ambitions and demands of the Arab peoples."

"Let’s wait for things to happen; foreign ministers will tackle all these issues and take decisions on them," Amr told reporters when asked about the possibilities of granting the Syrian seat to the opposition in the organisation.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011 after Damascus rejected a proposed peace plan calling for an end to the violence and demanding that President Bashar Al-Assad step down.

Qatar, the host of the Arab League’s Sunday meeting, backs giving the seat to the opposition, but they did not specify that it should go to the Syrian National Coalition.

"Arab foreign ministers will decide on the issue of the seat" said an Arab League official to AFP during a preparatory meeting in Doha on Sunday.

The Arab League called on the National Coalition on 6 March to form an executive body to take up Syria's seat and take part in the summit.

But Lebanon distanced itself from the decision, while Algeria and Iraq expressed reservations.

In all, nine of the bloc's other 21 members retain diplomatic missions in Damascus -- Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Sudan and Yemen -- despite its decision in November to recognise the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

The opposition alliance has begun the process of forming an executive body to administer rebel-held territory inside Syria, electing Ghassan Hitto as interim premier at a meeting in Turkey on Tuesday.

But a League official said the National Coalition needed to go further. Hitto's election "is important, but not enough," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We are still waiting for the formation of the interim government."

Hitto will be among the opposition delegates addressing the Doha summit, National Coalition member Ahmed Ramadan told AFP. The Syrian conflict has killed more than 70,000 people since March 2011, prompted more than a million to flee abroad, and displaced four million more inside the country.

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