28/03/2008

An Arab summit not very promising

Before getting started, the Arab summit being held this weekend in Damascus has already shown its limits. The most obvious being that it is intended to solve the problem of Lebanon even though the country of the Cedar took the decision to boycott the meeting.

In doing so, the government of Fouad Siniora intends to protest against the Syrian government. According to them the latter prevent to find a solution to the crisis in Lebanese politics. Lebanon has no more president since last November. A candidate of consensus has been reached in the person of the Chief of the Army, Michel Sleimane. The Arab League had proposed his immediate  election to solve the crisis, but the pro-Syrian camp repeatedly delayed the point.

Supporting Lebanon and pushed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt announced that they would be represented at a lower level. What is also the case of Iraq, even if his reasons are domestic.

The Secretary General of the League, Amr Moussa, expressed his regrets towards this absenteeism while major crisis should be settled on the Middle Eastern scene: in addition to the Lebanese crisis, the crisis in Darfur, the peace process and the Palestinian situation are effective programme of discussions in Damascus.

During the summit, Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh will attempt to win the support of the League about the initiative of Sana’a to bring Fatah and Hamas together. One week after the Sana’a Declaration, the agreement appears already weakened by readings that are different on both sides. In addition, the President of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas seems to give priority to dialogue with Israel, uneasily compatible with a Palestinian reconciliation.

Finally, some countries intend to impose a limitation on the period of validity of the Arab Peace Initiative. Initiated in Beirut in 2002, it was relaunched in March 2007 during the Arab summit in Riyadh. A year later, Israel hasn’t give any respond. Some say they want to limit the supply in time, or even withdraw it to push Israel to react. But not all are supporters of the initiative. The Palestinian Authority had said that it would weaken the Arab positions towards Israel.

The Arab summit on 29 and 30 March 2008 doesn’t seem to be under the best auspices. Syria announced it as the « summit of Arab solidarity, » yet it seems to be that of the rupture. It is difficult to believe that outgoing decisions in Damas will have any weight on the current regional situation.

N.J.O.