02.04.2014 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Kuwait and the 25th Summit of the Arab League

sammit_lagSmall emirate of Kuwait, located at the mouth of the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, has once again found itself in the heart of Arab and world politics. This was because in the capital, Kuwait City, on March 25-26, under the motto “Unity for the Future” was held the 25th Summit of the League of Arab States. It should be said that in recent years, under the leadership of the Kuwaiti diplomacy, Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Arab summits and meetings have been constantly held, in trying to establish a genuine unity in the Arab world.

However, despite the best efforts of the Kuwaiti diplomacy, the two-day summit of the Arab League was held against sharp political differences between member countries of the pan-Arab organization. First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah, recognizing this fact, stressed that the meeting was held in “extremely delicate circumstances”. Secretary General, Nabil al-Arabi, in his turn, noted that the results of the summit are very strongly influenced by the existing disputes. On the eve of the summit, it was expected that one of the main issues on the agenda would be the discussion of the disorder in the relationship between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, on one hand, and Qatar, on the other.

The main reason for these disputes is the financial support that the Qatari authorities offer to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia has now labeled as a terrorist group. Moreover, the consequence of this assistance was not only the deterioration in bilateral Egyptian-Qatari relations, but also the deterioration of Doha’s relations with other Arabian monarchies. Egypt authorities twice called Qatari diplomats into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and handed a protest note to them, in connection with the critical statements of officials of the emirate towards the interim leadership of Egypt. As for the heads of the diplomatic missions of the three states, even the experts do not exclude future economic sanctions against Doha. While Qatar, as some emirate officials indicated in an interview with Al-Ahram Egyptian edition (who wished to remain anonymous), “really wants to make peace with Cairo and the Arab Gulf states, however, a number of forces are trying to prevent the establishment of these relations and defusing of the situation.” However, they did not name those who are hindering the improvement of relations.

Then again, the Qatari topic, according to Iraq Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari, was not even discussed at the forum. “There was no stress. Kuwait, the host country, is skilled at promoting discussions,” said the Iraqi diplomat. “The topic of ambassadors’ recall was not even raised. There were no controversies, and the atmosphere was very positive.” Head of Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ramtane Lamamra, also said that: “Not all topics were discussed at the meeting.” The same was confirmed by the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait Khaled Al-Jarallah, who said that the crisis between the countries of the Persian Gulf was not discussed. “This issue will be solved only at the level of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf,” said the Kuwaiti diplomat.

Another important issue, which the participating countries of the pan-Arab organization cannot resolve, is Syria’s membership in the organization. Syria’s membership in the League was suspended in November 2011, and although the republic is still officially a member of the Arab League, its chair is empty. On the opening day of the press center for journalists at the summit, Secretary General of the pan-Arab organization Nabil al-Arabi said that it would be empty this year as well. At the previous Arab League Summit, held in March of last year in the Qatari capital of Doha, it was decided that Syria would be represented by the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF). However, this was not done, since, according to N. al-Arabi, certain conditions had not been fulfilled. Namely, there was not formed a transitional government, which was expected at the Geneva-2 Conference.

It should be noted that Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov actively participated in the forum. He explained to the senior leaders of the Arab countries, the Russian evaluation and considerations about the situation in Ukraine. Moreover, he transmitted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement to the participants of all-Arab Summit. At the meeting, he met with First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah, the Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz, Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs Abu Bakr Al Kirby, Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebranom Basilio, the UN Secretary General Special Representative and the Arab League on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and the chairman of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarboe.

“Representatives of the Arab countries have been explained in detail the principal Russian views on the situation in Ukraine,” this is noted in the Russian Foreign Ministry. They discussed topics on the agenda of the Arab League Summit, stressing the need for an early political settlement of the Syrian crisis and finding of a solution to the Palestinian problem in accordance with the principles of international law and the UN Charter, as well as some issues on bilateral relations. It was confirmed that the multi-faceted expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation and deepening of political dialogue remains one of the priorities of Russia and League member states. Quite naturally, it serves the common interest of peace and security in the region, the finding joint responses to current challenges and threats faced by the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, being at the stage of developing deep transformation processes.

During the tense two-day summit, a declaration was adopted, which emphasizes the need to strengthen relations between the countries belonging to the Arab League, and rapprochement of views on a large number of problems in the region, such as the crisis in Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and fight against terrorism. Leaders and representatives of the Arab Summit, chaired by the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, expressed their commitment to find peaceful political solutions to the problems the region is facing.

Middle East peace settlement, as it is stated in the communique, “is a major problem for all the Arab peoples.” Arab countries have once again agreed to work on the creation of a Palestinian state, with its capital in East Jerusalem, in accordance with international resolutions. “We/Participants of the Arab League/resolutely refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state”, it is stated in the adopted document, read first by Deputy Head of the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry Khaled al-Jarallah. This problem is currently of principal importance for Israel at the talks with the leadership of Palestine, and it remains unsolved. Palestine has another sensitive issue – the construction of settlements by Israel, which the Arab League considers unacceptable and illegal.

With regard to the crisis in Syria, the Arab countries once again expressed their full support for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the country. “We stand for a political solution of the Syrian crisis, based on the principles of the Geneva-1 Communique”, the statement says. Arab League participants also reaffirmed their support for the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. At the same time, the Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said that the participating countries of the league “decided to invite representatives of National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces at the ministerial meeting, to be held in September, as an exception.”

Despite the disputes in the Arab world, the summit in Kuwait contributed to the open exchange of views between all Arab League participants, further clarifying their positions and possible ways for solving current problems.

It was good that Kuwait acted as a mediator to solve the political crisis between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, on one hand, and Qatar, on the other. This fact was announced to journalists by the head of the international affairs committee in the National Assembly (parliament) of Kuwait, Ali al-Rashid, officially confirming the position of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “At the meeting (committee), they discussed the recent decision of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to recall their ambassadors from Qatar,” said the deputy. The meeting was also attended by the head of the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. According A. al-Rashid, the head of the Kuwaiti diplomacy explained the extent of the problem, and what it could lead to.

“The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly supports the official position of the State of Kuwait in its attempt to resolve the crisis and to bring together the points of view of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman),” said the deputy. He also stressed that he hoped that successful results would be achieved in these mediation efforts, as not only the head of the Foreign Ministry was involved, but also the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who had served as foreign minister for 40 years (from 1963 to 2003) and has extensive experience in negotiation processes.

Viktor Mikhin, Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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