The Arab Summit in Amman will be different

Sunday 26/03/2017

The 28th Arab League summit will take place in Amman amid complex political and security issues in the region making it imperative for Arab leaders to agree on a common vision so as to preserve their national interests.
According to the rotation sched­ule, it was Yemen’s turn to host this ordinary session. But it had to decline due to the ongoing con­flict there and for lack of logistical means. Last October, Jordan’s King Abdullah II agreed to host the summit in Amman.
Most of the time, summit deci­sions and positions are stated in such vague terms that member states often disregard them.
The Amman summit is ex­pected to be different. Many Arab heads of state are expected to at­tend. Diplomatic efforts by Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have led to the belief that some bilateral is­sues, especially the recent dispute between Cairo and Riyadh, will be settled during the summit. Already, there are signs of détente between the two countries. Saudi Arabia has decided to resume sup­plying oil to Egypt at the rate of 700,000 tonnes a month.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced some days ago that the Amman summit would produce an impor­tant statement hinting that the heads of state were determined to patch up bilateral relations and close some political rifts.
Judging by the diplomatic activ­ity in Cairo, the Palestinian cause is at the top of Arab priorities for the summit. The Palestinian cause has always garnered agreement among the Arab leaders. Taking advantage of Trump administra­tion’s wish to rearrange its politi­cal cards in the Middle East, Arab heads of state will want to place the Palestinian cause at the centre of any future arrangements with America. The US attitude towards it is still fuzzy and the Arab lead­ers would want to adopt a com­mon vision fixing the basis for a political solution in the Palestin­ian territories.
Last February, King Abdullah II met with US President Donald Trump in Washington and reiter­ated Jordan’s conditions for a po­litical solution: Returning to the June 4th, 1967, borders, declaring East Jerusalem as the capital for the state of Palestine and ending colonies on Palestinian land.
Trump has indicated that he was not bound by the two-state solution, which previous US presidents had always favoured. Should Trump make good on his campaign promise to move the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it would constitute a major turning point in US-Arab relations. Moving the embassy has always been on the agenda of US presidents in the past but they all refrained from doing it, lest they irrevocably dam­age US relations with the Arab world.
The Palestinian cause will defi­nitely dominate the debates at the next Arab summit. Israel contin­ues to build colonies in flagrant violation of UN decisions and de­spite international outrage. To add complexity to the overall regional picture, Iran and Turkey have lately taken moves to appropriate the Palestinian cause and play it as a winning card in the power game in the region. The Arab leaders will certainly not keep quiet about these developments and will certainly insist on keeping the Pal­estinian cause within the sphere of Arab influence.
Also on the agenda of the Am­man summit is the crisis in Libya. The consensus here is to encourage a political settlement and put an end to the chaos there, all within the framework of dealing with the terrorist threat in the region.
The Syrian crisis will be broached from the angle of the growing concern of the Arab heads of state about Iran’s expansionist policies. Syria will not be repre­sented at the summit. Amman decided not to invite President Bashar Assad, thus avoiding direct discussions of the Syrian crisis.
Regarding Iran’s growing influ­ence in the region, the Arab heads of state look favourably at Wash­ington’s desire to contain Iranian influence in Iraq. Some Arab states are pushing for an Arab security alliance for the purpose of curtail­ing Iranian meddling in other Arab issues. However, not all Arab states are in favour of the move.
With all of these concerns on the agenda, the final statement of the Arab summit will certainly be very different from the preceding ones. It will definitely include a condemnation of Iranian med­dling in the region and will insist on the necessity of Iran’s with­drawal from the Emirati islands. There will also be a call for an end to Iran’s meddling in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Some Egyptian diplomats insist on the necessity for the summit to men­tion concrete measures towards this end and on the necessity of returning Iraq and Syria to the Arab sphere. In addition, the Arab states have a vested interest in curtailing Iran’s presence and influence in Syria and Lebanon.