Gulf rifts loom large over Arab League summit agenda

Opens today; Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon to be focused on

25 March, 09:59

    Arab Summit in Kuwait - Foreign Ministers meeting [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20140323 ] Arab Summit in Kuwait - Foreign Ministers meeting [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20140323 ]

    (by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) - DUBAI, MARCH 24 - The Arab League summit due to start on Tuesday will be marked by divisions among its ranks and noteworthy absences, as Qatar will be the sole nation among the oil-rich Gulf monarchies to send its head of state. Even the delegation of Kuwait, which is hosting the meeting of the 22 Arab nations, will be presided over by Heir Prince Nawaf Al-Sabah and not the emir himself, news agency KUNA announced. The summit is the first diplomatic meeting of the region since a crisis within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in recent weeks resulted in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain pulling their ambassadors out of Doha. The three nations said that the move was a reaction to Qatar's ''interference'' in neighboring countries' internal affairs, though it is clear that the decision stems from Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a political movement that has been outlawed in its fellow Gulf monarchies and in Egypt. But not in Qatar. It was in its mosques that the stirring sermons of the movement's spiritual leader - the Egyptian Islamic theologian Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, best known for his television program 'Shariah and Life' - were made, drawing the fury of Gulf sheikhs due to the critical, caustic remarks made against them in his preaching. The two-day summit will include a session by the name of 'Clearing the Atmosphere and Compromises', in which Kuwait's foreign minister, Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah, has said the ''differences'' creating regional tension will be dealt with, hinting at the possibility of a solution without indicating specific mediation strategies. The top priority for the 25th Arab League summit will in any case remain the conflict in Syria. The war is another source of tension between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, since though both support anti-regime forces, one prefers more moderate militias and the other more radical Islamists. Qatar's foreign minister, Khaled Al Attiya, has said that ''there are no disputes between the two countries'' and that Qatar ''maintains a high level of coordination with the Friends of Syria Group, and especially with Saudi Arabia.'' The summit will include discussion on a new anti-terrorism accord submitted by Egypt, which includes the possibility to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

    The revision is strongly backed by Cairo and Riyadh and could further compromise Qatar's position in the Gulf, which is already seen as a sponsor of the organization and would thus be subject to sanctions. In addition to Syria, the 22 Arab League nations will discuss Egypt, Iraq, and the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon. (ANSAmed).

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