Arab summit opens at time of deep rifts


KUWAIT CITY: An Arab League summit opens in Kuwait on Tuesday at a time of deepening rifts between its member states and without any end in sight to the Syrian conflict.

With Doha in the eye of the storm, the region’s leaders are expected to discuss the row, which has pitted Qatar against Gulf partners Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as Egypt.

They will hold a special session to discuss “clearing the atmosphere and compromises,” said the Arab League assistant secretary general for political affairs, Fadhel Jawad.

Kuwait’s foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah, and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi confirmed at a joint press conference Thursday that the differences will be debated but declined to reveal any specific mediation efforts.

Sheikh Sabah acknowledged that the summit was being held under “highly delicate” circumstances and that Arab countries were faced with serious challenges.

Qatar’s perceived support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood lies at the core of the dispute, over which Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama have recalled their ambassadors from Doha in an unprecedented move between Gulf states.

Kuwaiti political analyst Dhafer al-Ajmi said the host country’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, was likely to use his skills as a mediator.

“Internal Arab disputes are overshadowing the summit but I am optimistic that Kuwait and its emir could achieve a breakthrough,” said Ajmi, who heads the Gulf Monitoring Group, an independent research center.

The summit will also debate a new counter-terrorism pact tabled by Egypt, Jawad said, amid reports that Cairo and Riyadh could press for the Muslim Brotherhood to be declared a terrorist organization.

Another top item will be the Arab Spring and the deadly fall-out from the uprisings which have rocked the region over the past three years.

“We are experiencing huge unrest in most parts of the Arab world . . . and it’s time that we discussed the future,” Arabi said.

The revolts have resulted in the ouster of three presidents, the killing of a fourth head of state and triggered a devastating civil war in Syria.



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