Arab economic summit faces defections over concerns for Syria, Iran

The Arab Economic and Social Development summit in Lebanon this weekend has seen several heads of state drop out of the event, over concerns about Syria and Iran.

Foreign ministers of Arab countries meet at the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday. Photo by Wael Hamzeh
Foreign ministers of Arab countries meet at the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday. Photo by Wael Hamzeh

The emirs of Qatar and Kuwait have turned down invitations, along with the Palestinian Authority. Egypt announced it will send its prime minister instead of the president.
The absences appear to be snub to Hezbollah, which holds power in Lebanon. Hezbollah is aligned with Iran and supports the Syrian government that has been locked in a long-running civil war.

While some want to bring Syria and President Bashar al-Assad back into organizations like the Arab League, other Gulf nations are not as welcoming.
“We aren’t there yet,” Rami Khoury, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera about Syria’s relationship with other Arab countries. “Not all Arab countries want to immediately normalize relations with Syria.”

While the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have reopened their embassies in Syria, most other Arab countries have not followed suit. Egypt, which initially pushed to bring Assad back into the Arab fold, now says Syria must comply with United Nation resolutions requiring him to relinquish some power before readmittance is considered.

Syria turned down an invitation to an Arab League economic summit in March because its readmittance to the Arab League would not be discussed during the Lebanon summit.
Arab League Asst. Secretary-General Hossam Zaki confirmed Syria would not be a topic of discussion at the event this weekend.

“We received an invitation from the Lebanese presidential office to participate in the economic summit,” Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdulkarim Ali said Thursday “It was natural to refuse. The Arab League did not fix the mistakes it had made in relation to Damascus.”

ByClyde Hughes