Arab League to Hold Joint European Union Meeting

On Nov. 13, the Arab League will host a meeting of Arab foreign ministers and their EU counterparts. Lebanese MP Adnan Mansour, current chair of the Arab League, is demanding the EU address Palestinian grievances, writes Marlene Khalifeh.

al-monitor Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives for a meeting with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby at the Palestinian Ambassador's residence in Amman, Nov. 5, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed.

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syrian, palestinian, arab, abu mazen

Nov 9, 2012

For the first time since its inception, the Arab League will host a joint meeting for Arab foreign ministers (22 ministers) and their European counterparts (27 ministers) on Nov. 13 at the headquarters of the Arab League General Secretariat in Cairo.

The meeting will be headed by the Arab League’s current chairman Lebanese MP Adnan Mansour, current European Union council president, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus Erato Kozakou Marcoullis, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.  

The Lebanese mission in Cairo began cooperating with the Arab League and EU representatives to lay down the outline of the final declaration that will be issued following this extraordinary meeting, whose objective is “to find common ground for Arab and European efforts and develop a common vision for the crises in the region, notably the peace process in the Middle East.”

This declaration is expected to address a number of serious topics, most importantly the Syrian crisis, which was the only subject that has not been previously included in the final declaration.

“It has been agreed to adopt an article on the Syrian crisis at the request of the Arab side,” according to a well-informed diplomat.

Some of the declaration’s items are still under scrutiny and subject to modification, including the issue of comprehensive and just peace, which is considered to be a “strategic” and vital target for the stability of the Middle East and international security.

Furthermore, the declaration will reaffirm the continued support for the Arab Peace Initiative, and the need to resume negotiations between the parties to the conflict and resolve all issues included on the meeting’s agenda.

Most importantly among these are the issues of the Palestinian refugees, water, security, border, Jerusalem and settlements in order to achieve a two-state solution in accordance with the principles of the Madrid Conference on land for peace, which is “based on United Nations Security Council resolutions, road map and agreements between concerned parties.”

In this context, Lebanon demands that the resolutions of the General Assembly, the UN Charter and international law be also taken into consideration, “and will not accept to limit reference to the Security Council’s resolutions alone.”

According to a Lebanese diplomat, the EU is likely to separate between the UN General Assembly’s decisions and the Security Council’s resolutions.

“Before 2008, EU used to adhere to the decisions of both, the General Assembly and the Security Council. However, following the year 2008 EU limited decisions to the Security Council, which sidelined major decisions issued by the General Assembly regarding Jerusalem and the Palestinian settlement that came to the advantage of Arabs, including the right of return provided for in the renowned resolution 194 on the right of return for Palestinians,” the diplomat said.

“Lebanon is determined to add the General Assembly’s decisions along with the Security Council resolutions as a constant reference,” the diplomat added.

Furthermore, there will be discussions on the distinction between resistance and terrorism.

“While the EU seeks to reject terrorism in all its forms and justifications in the final declaration, Lebanon stresses the need to distinguish between terrorism and the right of people to resist occupation,” the diplomat said.

Delegates will also discuss the situation of Iran and the waterways (the Strait of Hormuz). The final declaration will include an item calling for a joint conference seeking to have a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction with the right of states to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Iran will also be called to respond to a peaceful solution to the issue of the three disputed islands with the United Arab Emirates, in addition to the problems in the Sahel region and Mali.

The final declaration will also discuss the establishment of a crisis room, which will be considered as the first Arab-European cooperation for early warning and crisis management that will contribute to conflict prevention and peace building.

The final declaration will also welcome elections in different Arab countries that underwent major changes, promoting the role of civil society taking into account domestic laws, emphasizing on the free movement of persons between Arab and European countries while addressing the phenomenon of illegal immigration.

In addition, the declaration will also tackle the reconciliation process in Somalia while expressing concerns about piracy actions disrupting regional activities, international trade and maritime safety.

Cooperation agreements between Sudan and South Sudan will be welcomed and the international community will be urged to help sustain peace between the two states by promoting their economies. The outcome of the Gulf Initiative on the Yemeni crisis will be also welcomed.

It must be noted that on Sept. 30, the Arab League hosted a meeting for the permanent members and the ambassadors of 27 European countries for coordination and consultation about the next ministerial meeting and to draft the “Cairo Declaration,” which came as a result of the meeting.

Earlier this month, the Arab League permanent members and representatives of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy urged all concerned states to actively participate in the European-Arab Ministerial meeting scheduled on Nov. 13.

It must be also noted that one day before the ministerial meeting an extraordinary meeting for Arab Foreign Ministers is scheduled to be held at the Arab League headquarters to discuss the Syrian crisis among other major issues, most importantly the recent Israeli aggression on Sudan.

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