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The Arab League Summit Scene 31 Catch 22

The Arab League Summit Scene 31 Catch 22

The Arab League Summit Scene 31 Catch 22

The Arab League’s 31st summit was held last week in Algiers. They attempted to establish common ground on a variety of thorny issues facing both the Middle East and North Africa during the gathering. The first Arab League summit since 2019 was held against the backdrop of food insecurity and energy shortages, drought, and the region’s growing cost of living. Egypt’s President, as well as counterparts from Tunisia, Iraq, Qatar, Somalia, and the Palestinian Authority, were among those that attended the 31st Arab Summit. King Salman and his son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not attend the occasion. According to rumors, MBS skipped the ceremony owing to health concerns (an ear infection), and King Mohammed VI of Morocco reportedly did not attend. The king of Bahrain and the Emir of Kuwait were both absent from the ceremony. Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdallah was representing the country for the first time. The UAE was represented by the ruler of Dubai, and Oman was represented by a senior minister. Syria was booted out of the Arab League a decade ago, thus it did not attend the summit.
Algeria appears to have used the fact that it was hosting this year’s event to bolster the boldness of its recent foreign policy. Algeria was focused on the demonstrations that led to the overthrow of its long-serving President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the larger power system during the summit’s last hiatus since 2019. Leaders today are significantly less susceptible than in the past. Despite the fact that the country’s energy resources are in great demand, particularly in light of the war in Ukraine, a change was highlighted this summer when the heads of state of France and Italy visited the country. Algiers appears to believe that the time has come to demonstrate its presence on the regional and global stage, bolstered by a windfall of oil and gas export income, as demonstrated by its bid to join the BRICS grouping alongside Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
Despite Algeria’s bid for unity, the summit underlined the Arab League’s fracturing and dysfunction. A much deeper rift remained, particularly with the reintegration of Syria into the organization after the regime of Bashar al-Assad repressed a popular movement. With the assistance of Iran and Hezbollah, the Assad dictatorship has slaughtered over 500,000 Syrians and driven seven million others from their homes. Algeria has the friendliest connections with Tehran of any league member, although Iraq and Lebanon are ruled by Iran-backed militias and often refuse to oppose the regime’s foreign aggressiveness in any way. These statements have enraged Saudi Arabia, which is fighting the Houthis, Iran’s proxy in Yemen.
One of the long-standing disagreements between Algeria and Morocco is its primary territory of Western Sahara, and Algeria’s support for the Polisario, and as their bilateral relations deteriorated, Algiers and Rabat courted other African and Arab countries. To Algeria’s chagrin, former President Donald Trump accepted Moroccan sovereignty over this disputed territory in 2020. Less than a year later, Algiers severed diplomatic ties with Rabat and ceased delivering natural gas to Europe. This summer, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI stated that the country was open to re-establishing “normal relations,” but he did not attend the summit due to their problematic relationship.
Egypt and Algeria have also begun a spat over Algeria’s ambition to act as a mediator in Libya by courting the GNU, which Egypt opposes, as well as its flirtation with Ethiopia. Egypt is at odds with Addis Ababa over the fill rate of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Cairo’s Nile water issues are existential, thus Algeria’s flirting with Ethiopia has an impact on Egyptian connections.
While there is agreement on some issues, such as Turkey’s intervention in Arab state affairs, its military deployment in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, as well as its signing of an energy and investment deal with Libya’s GNU. The meeting took a neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as expected. Algiers has long had cordial relations with Russia, from whence it obtains the great majority of its armaments. There was no government pressure to favor Ukraine. Concerning the Palestinian question, the summit produced non-binding and non-actionable Arab League statements in favor of the Palestinian cause. Even states that have signed the Abraham Accords or other steps to normalize relations with Israel may have lend verbal support to the Palestinian cause during a league meeting.
The meeting was unable to reach an agreement on the Abraham Accords due to internal differences. At regional summits, the terms of public discourse in the Arab world are frequently defined. The Algiers summit generally reaffirmed long-standing values while avoiding potentially controversial subjects. It did underline Algeria’s rising significance as the host country, and the propaganda it will generate will be used by the President in his reelection campaign in 2024, allowing him to claim that his country is playing a key role in strengthening Arab unity just by hosting the summit. However, the true success of the event will be measured by the level of attendance by the leaders, and given the rampant divisions among league members and the bleak prospects that their differences will be resolved in the near future, this year’s Arab summit passed with little notice and few accomplishments as the usual outcome that the Arab peoples expected.

More By Ahmed Fathi

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Newslooks.com

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