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Mauritania: 27th Arab League Summit – Short on Tangible Results

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“The summit’s final communiqué was largely meaningless. The assertions it made are unlikely to affect any results on the ground. The summit will not serve to resolve any of the Arab world’s ongoing crises,” says Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University.

By Rabie al-Sukkary and Hussein Mahmoud

Nouakchott: The final communiqué of the 27th Arab League Summit, which wrapped up in Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, last fortnight, largely reiterated positions on which Arab states agree, while studiously ignoring issues of contention.
“The summit’s final communiqué was largely meaningless,” Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University, told Anadolu Agency. “The assertions it made are unlikely to affect any results on the ground.” The summit, he went on to assert, “will not serve to resolve any of the Arab world’s ongoing crises”.
The league communiqué began by congratulating Ahmed Abul-Gheit, a former Egyptian foreign minister, on his recent appointment as league secretary-general.
It went on to reaffirm the importance of the Palestinian issue, stressing the need for “joint Arab action” in this regard and making standard calls for an end of Israel’s decades-long occupation of Arab land. It also expressed support for a French peace initiative that seeks to restart dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators with a view to reaching a final settlement.
In terms of the Syria conflict, the communiqué merely expressed hope that “our brothers in Syria are able to reach a political solution” that preserves the country’s unity, territorial integrity and independence in line with the 2012 Geneva Declaration and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
The league did not, however, adopt an explicit position regarding the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with a view to avoiding disputes between Arab states that demand his immediate departure and those that have adopted a softer line.
“Arab divisions run deep over Syria,” said Nafaa. “Not all Arab states insist on Assad’s departure; some see him as less harmful than other forces that are active in Syria, such as the Nusra Front and Daesh.”
“This summit won’t change the Russian or U.S. positions on Syria,” he added. “Nor will it change those of the Arab states with direct relations with the main actors in Syria.”
On Iraq, meanwhile, the league likewise stressed the need to preserve the country’s unity and territorial integrity in the face of terrorist groups and amid the ongoing liberation of Iraqi territory from the Daesh terrorist group.
The communiqué made no reference to the Turkish military presence in northern Iraq,considered a contentious issue after a number of Arab countries refused to issue a resolution condemning the Turkish military deployment in the country.
“Although some countries, especially Iraq, had sought to pass a draft resolution condemning Turkey’s military presence in Iraq, the issue was excluded from the final communiqué,” Nafaa said.
This, he added, “was due to Iraq’s relatively weak political presence at the summit and the success of Turkish foreign policy”.
On Iran and the perceived growing Iranian influence in the region, however, the league was explicit, reiterating its rejection of “Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, especially that which could threaten Arab national security”.
But according to Nafaa, “even this assertion wasn’t as strong as states like Saudi Arabia and some other countries would have liked, because some Arab states, such as Iraq and Lebanon, differ with the Saudi position in this regard”.
The summit in Nouakchott entirely failed to mention an earlier proposal to establish a joint Arab force, an idea first floated last year by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
According to Nafaa, this was due to “the ongoing lack of agreement between Arab states as to who exactly would finance and lead the proposed force and the power allocated to it”.
What’s more, he said, it still remains unclear until now what enemy the proposed force is meant to protect the Arab region from.
The summit was one of the least attended in the league’s history, with only eight Arab heads of state in attendance. The remaining 14 failed show up for different reasons, not all of which were made public.
The event was attended by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz; Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir; Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi; Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud; Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh; President of Comoros Iklil Zanin; Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah.
It was also one of the shortest-ever Arab League summits in terms of duration, observers noted, lasting only six hours; Arab League summits are usually held over two days.