Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 07:48 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 07:48 | SYDNEY

What if they held an Arab summit and nobody came?


Rodger Shanahan


2 April 2008 10:23

As an advertisement for Arab disunity, last weekend’s Arab Summit was a runaway success, given that it was noteworthy more for who didn’t attend than who did. Out of the 22 members of the Arab League, only 10 sent their leaders to the summit. Regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Egypt only sent ministers to register their ongoing displeasure at Syrian interference in Lebanese politics, which has effectively paralysed that country, while Lebanon boycotted the summit completely for the same reason. Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki was unable to attend due to the faltering of his military operation against the Mahdi Army.

Still, those who did attend did their best to maintain disunity. Muammar Ghaddafi led the way, dismissing a call for Arab states to cooperate on a joint nuclear program with the observation that 'We (Arab states) hate each other, we wish ill of each other and our intelligence services conspire against each other. We are our own enemy.' If this was the frankness of the summit’s public session, it would have been interesting to have been at Saturday’s closed-door session which the host Syrian president Bashar al-Assad described as frank and free of flattery.

The rather bland final communiqué was released, against the objection of the Iraqi vice-president Abdul Abdul-Mehdi, who said that the so-called Damascus Declaration did not condemn terror or violence and failed to note the Iraqi Government’s efforts towards national reconciliation. If the purpose of the Arab League’s formation was to 'strengthen the close relations and numerous ties that bind the Arab states', the Damascus summit won’t go down in history as one of its finest achievements.