Squabbles overshadow Arab Summit

Dina Ezzat , Wednesday 13 Apr 2011

The 11 May summit in Baghdad could be delayed 'indefinitely' as Gulf states seek backing for their proposal to cancel the event

Arab League
General view showing the Arab League's emergency meeting in Cairo (Photo: AP)
Arab Gulf countries are demanding "the cancellation" of the Arab Summit, according to a press statement by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Khalifa.

The summit was scheduled for a delayed convocation in Baghdad on 11 May. Iraq's rotating chair of the summit was delayed for two years to allow for security and political stability to find their way to Iraq before it could host the event.

No reason for the request has been given, but Arab diplomats speak openly of a disquiet among Bahrain and Saudi Arabia over the role played by the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in stirring the demands made by Bahraini and Saudi Shias for political reforms.

An official source at the secretariat of the Arab League in Cairo told Ahram Online on Wednesday morning that "no official request has reached the secretariat yet, but if they announced it then it must be coming in the coming hours."

Meanwhile, an Egyptian diplomatic source told Ahram Online on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia had informed Cairo of the intention to put off the summit for now and that it received a nod of approval.

Iraqi diplomats close to the government of Al-Maliki say that Baghdad will fight this request.

The fate of the 2011 summit has been in much doubt since the beginning of the year when Libya, supposedly chair of the current Arab summit since the Sirt version in March 2010, announced a call for the delay of the summit early February due to the political turmoil across the Arab world.

Tripoli's participation in Arab League activities was suspended a few weeks later to protest the use of violence by the regime of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi against protesters calling for reform. And an Arab foreign ministers meeting that convened for its regular spring convocation in Cairo on the second week of March decided to have the summit on 11 May in Baghdad.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Houchiar Zebari on Sunday said that Iraq has already spend millions of dollars to renovate hotels and meeting rooms for the convocation of the summit.

If the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council can garner the support of six other countries then the summit would be "delayed indefinitely" but not cancelled, according to one GCC-based diplomat.

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