Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1390, (19 - 25 April 2018)
Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Issue 1390, (19 - 25 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Storms below the summit

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi highlighted regional threats during his speech at the Arab Summit, Reem Leila reports


Storms below the summit
Storms below the summit

The Arab world is facing its worst crisis since independence, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi told the Arab Summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Al-Sisi criticised the way regional powers were interfering in the internal affairs of Arab countries in an attempt to establish zones of influence, pointing out that the army of one regional player is currently active in two Arab countries, something he described as “explicit occupation”.

The reference, commentators agreed, was to Turkey, which has deployed troops in both Syria and Iraq.

When he signalled out “another regional state working on creating zones of influence in the Arab region since the latter started to witness disability starting in 2011”, observers agreed he was pointing a finger at Iran.

Tehran, or its proxies, are active in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Al-Sisi condemned the Iranian-backed Houthi militia for attacking Saudi Arabia, saying “Egypt will not accept Yemeni elements bombing Saudi territories with ballistic missiles and threatening Arab national security.”

King Salman of Saudi Arabia, whose country currently holds the rotating chair of the Arab Summit, condemned Iran’s “deliberate interference” in Arab affairs. The king said Houthi rebels had fired 116 missiles at the kingdom since Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen three years ago to try to roll back Houthi gains there.

The summit convened a day after the US, UK and France launched missiles against what they claimed were the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons infrastructure. 

“Egypt is against any prohibited weapons being used on Syrian territory,” said Al-Sisi, referring to allegations the regime there had used chemical weapons against a rebel enclave. “We call for an international and transparent investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

Arab countries’ efforts, specifically Egyptian-Saudi cooperation, have played an important role in unifying Syrian opposition groups, according to Al-Sisi, and “we expect the United Nations to move quickly, in coordination with Arab countries, to start the mission of the Syrian constitution drafting committee, as a prelude to resume negotiations”.  He added, “it will be unacceptable to form this commission, or resume negotiations due to non-Arab calculations and balances. The Syrians themselves and the Arabs must be key partners in peace efforts in Syria, for being the genuine stakeholders in preserving Syria’s unity and integrity”.

The gathering, dubbed the Jerusalem summit at the suggestion of King Salman, also focussed on Palestine. Egypt submitted a resolution to the UN in December which was backed by a majority of UN member states. According to Al-Sisi, the Egyptian-drafted resolution called on the United States to reverse its December decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and was adopted by a majority of 128 countries.

Addressing crises in Libya and Yemen, Al-Sisi said preserving the sovereignty and territorial unity of the two countries and blocking attempts by terrorist organisations and their regional and international sponsors to undermine them was the Arab nation’s responsibility.

“We will not allow these two countries to become theatres for international and regional conflicts that tear apart their peoples and destroy their capabilities,” said Al-Sisi.

Egypt will continue supporting efforts to preserve Libyan unity and restore its state institutions. “Egypt has been exerting tremendous efforts to unify the military establishment in Libya and create security based on the restoration of the national state in Libya and the eradication of terrorism,” he said.

He condemned Arab governments that provide a safe haven for terrorists. While he did not elaborate, attendees understood he was talking about Qatar. He said terrorists are “the first link of a criminal chain that includes those who finance them and provide them with refuge”.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar last year.

Sixteen Arab leaders attended the summit.

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