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Arab League Summit Is About More Than Syria

The Arab League summit dealt not only with the controversial issue of seating the Syrian opposition, but also with Arab citizenship and civil society, writes Clovis Maksoud.
Heads of Arab states gather ahead of a group photo during the opening of the Arab League summit in Doha March 26, 2013. Russia criticised the Arab League on Wednesday for giving a seat formerly held by the Syrian government to a representative of the Syrian opposition at a summit in Doha. Picture taken March 26, 2013. REUTERS/Egyptian Presidency/Handout (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR  EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CA

The outcome of the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, attracted international attention partly because of the formal recognition of the Syrian National Coalition (the opposition) as the “official” representative of Syria to the Arab League. The welcoming of Moaz Al-Khatib, the recently resigned president of the National Coalition, and the “prime minister,” Ghassan Hitto, sitting in Syria’s place, was a precedent that some Arab states such as Algeria, Iraq, and Sudan worried about. Lebanon, for its part, continued its policy of self-distancing. Another paradox was that Moaz Al-Khatib spoke as the leader of the opposition, but in fact, had resigned from his position as head of the National Coalition just days before. There were expectations that he would review his resignation if installed by the Arab League.

There is pressure for him to remain with the National Coalition — but he insisted that his resignation was still valid. This paradox might be resolved if the National Coalition refuses his resignation. If he insists, however, the paradox will remain. While the events in Syria constituted the major item at the summit, it must be noticed that the language of the resolutions recognized several other issues that were raised before but remained unaddressed.

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