Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari talks to a group of local and western journalists during a tour to show them the readiness of hotels rehabilitated for the Arab Summit, in Baghdad April 11, 2011.  (photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen)

Arab League Summit in Baghdad Faced with Daunting Challenges

Author: alzaman Posted February 17, 2012

Political pundits are looking forward to the Arab Summit that will be held in Baghdad on March 29, as it will be the first to take place since the sweeping wave of the Arab Spring. Given the deterioration of the Arab political and economic climate, and the significant rifts that have appeared between Arab countries, many think-tanks are skeptical of the success [that can be achieved] during the upcoming summit. Moreover, in view of the ongoing tragic situation in Syria and Yemen and the instability in Egypt due to uncompromising [popular] demands to dissolve the military council and hold snap presidential elections, the Arab Summit is unlikely to [yield positive benefits].

SummaryPrint On March 29, Baghdad is set to host the first Arab League Summit since the beginning of the Arab Spring. However, some regional powers have already decided to boycott the conference. The Summit is up against a steep list of challenges which can only be overcome through Arab unity, writes Abdallah Mahammad Alkak.
Author Abdallah Mohammad Alkak Posted February 17, 2012
TranslatorSahar Ghoussoub

The Arab League has welcomed the Iraqi Government's efforts to prepare for the Conference on such short notice. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari described the Arab Summit as a qualitative move. However, the challenges facing the summit may kill all of hopes of its success [in achieving] national goals. Furthermore, some countries are unlikely to participate in the conference despite Iraqi efforts to [bring everyone to the table]. The current phase [surrounding Arab developments] is extremely critical and will require a united Arab position.

According to Iraqis officials, the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq has restored sovereignty to the the country. Next month's summit marks the return of Iraq [to the regional scene] after two decades of marginalization under US occupation.

The turbulence in the Arab region is also worrisome. Israel has rejected the decisions taken by the Quartet [the international body charged with mitigating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict]. American presidential elections are on their way and the US and Israel are heightening their threats towards Iran. In addition, [tension] is brewing in the Gulf following Iran’s boastful threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in the event that the US and the EU ban imports of Iranian oil. The severity of this situation requires a unified Arab position in debates and discussions. Finally, there is also the deteriorating situation in Syria and [the international community’s] divided positions on how best to approach the conflict.

Although 14 Arab countries have confirmed that they will attend the Summit, some are threatening to disrupt the meetings despite all of the Iraqi preparations to guarantee its success. [Iraq wants to see] the recommendations and resolutions made by ministers during preliminary meetings implemented. Iraq wishes for the summit - taking place on Mesopotamian territory [for the first time since 1990] - will produce decisive results, reconcile Arab differences and put an end to the problems facing the Arab nation during such a critical time.

Given that it will be held during this period of dramatic change in the region, the Summit will be of great significance [and has the potential to] support Arab solidarity and consolidate joint [Arab] goals. The Arab system have been suffering following the collapse of the Arab Maghreb Union and the events that negatively affected the Palestinian cause. The momentum of the Palestinian cause has been lost on both the regional and international levels. The Arabs sought ways in which to lift the unjust siege on Gaza and provide grants to the Palestinians, while the West continued to back Israel's repressive policy, settlement projects, land confiscations, arrests and attacks on the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The Palestinian cause ought to return to the forefront, especially given that all the previous summits which called for Palestinian reconciliation failed. Throughout the past ten years the toothless Arab League has not taken any dramatic initiatives to support the Palestinian cause. When Amr Moussa, then-Secretary General, was asked about the Palestinian issue during the Algerian summit [in 2005] he said, "The solution to the Palestinian cause lies in the hands of the Palestinians themselves. They must resolve their internal problems." His statements were further proof that the Arab League had reneged on its pledges to mobilize the Arabs in support for Palestine. The League fell silent while Palestinians were killed and their houses destroyed at the hands of the Israelis. The Arabs have not taken a single step towards to the two-state solution. They did not raise a finger to implement the [American backed] roadmap or the Arab initiative for peace. Arab leaders have been preoccupied by the Arab upheavals - tending to their own interests, in light of the new phase emerging in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, as well as the tragic situation in Syria.

All parties hope that Baghdad Summit will address the current challenges and represent a turning point in approaching Arab differences with a fraternal spirit. [There is hope for] these leaders to work actively in consolidating security and service cooperation among the Arab peoples and their governments. The Iraqis, on the other hand hope that it will restore their role on both the Arab and International fronts. A [strong] Arab role is required to promote development, modernization and reform, that falls within the people's interests and national values. The Summit's decisions must step up to meet the current challenges out of consideration for the future of [the Arab nation]. In order to preserve the Arab nation and protect it from future threats, the Arab League ought to reinvent itself and work along the lines the EU, preserving each member’s right to self-identity.

If convened, the Baghdad Summit will address all of the tragic events taking place across the region. Arab leaders do indeed want to reconcile their differences and respond to Israeli and US threats to the region - namely Israel's refusal to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians. As the US elections are drawing near, Israel will continue with its settlement operations with the backing of US [politicians, as they try to win the favor of pro-Israel voters]. In the upcoming months, no party should entertain any hopes that the US administration will advance any kind of peace in the region.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2012/02/baghdad-summit.html

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