Mar 13,2018 – JORDAN TIMES –
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will host the next regular annual Arab summit. Last year’s was held in Jordan. Arab leaders’ enthusiasm for participating in such major events has been steadily declining. Obviously, and rightly so, they do not expect much. Often, their attendance is a gesture of consideration for the host country rather than a commitment for constructive engagement in any meaningful debate. That is why some leaders attend the opening session and leave or stay a little longer. Summit sessions, therefore, are drifting into mere formalities. Routinely, foreign ministers prepare the summit agenda, the final statement and the decisions even before heads of state meet. Arab leaders, or their representatives, do deliver policy statements at the opening session. They may move after that to a supposedly closed session for deeper discussions of agenda issues. But they hardly conduct open debates relating to the many inter-Arab disputes and disagreements. Mostly, they either exchange cautious compliments or opt to remain silent.
Yet, that is not difficult to understand. Arab heads of state do not view the summits as appropriate gatherings for addressing the prevailing crises in the region. Not only because the summit institution has no power to back any of its decisions, but also because most of the disputes are among member states of the Arab League, which acts as the vehicle for such summits.
The Arab states are deeply divided on all current crises, whether in Syria, Libya or in Yemen. The warring parties in all of those three countries are supported, financed and armed by opposing Arab states. How could it be possible for the belligerent parties to simultaneously engage in war and in peace? How could Arab countries’ armies or militias confront each other on many war theatres while their leaders discuss peace at summits? That is really hard to reconcile.
The Amman Summit in March 2017 did generate some hope. It was well attended. It produced some constructive decisions and visible signals of good will were demonstrated by attending leaders.
But before the promising outcomes had any chance of taking effect, a major crisis unexpectedly and suddenly erupted in the Gulf region, hitherto believed to be one of the last bastions of stability and congruity in the fractured Arab world. The eight-month old crisis between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt — not a Gulf state — on one side against Qatar on the other side, continues to deepen as well as widen the split among the Gulf Cooperation Council members with no visible signs of relaxation of tension any time soon.
The small remaining spots of relative stability in the rest of Arab region have not been spared the impact of the turbulent situations all around. Every Arab country is gravely affected by the general crisis situation.