Optimism at Arab League summit in Jeddah - GulfToday

Optimism at Arab League summit in Jeddah


Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with Syria's President Bashar Al Assad. Reuters

With the return of Syria to the Arab League after a lapse of 12 years, and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad attending the summit meeting, and with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky landing at Jeddah and pleading with Arab League support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, there is a sense of solidarity among the members of the League who have very often disagreed in the past and still do, and there is also a sense that the leading members of the League have an important role to play in global affairs. There is also optimism on the intra-Arab League front with truce in Yemen in place and in Sudan, though it has been less stable than in Yemen. With Saudi Arabia and Iran restoring their diplomatic relations with each through a China-mediated agreement, Tehran hopes to mend its fences with members of the Arab League as well. But the challenges that have dogged the Arab League remain as well, and the formation of the state of Palestine remains a major one. Members of the League also feel that the battle against climate change needs to be fought unitedly, and no one member can achieve it on its own.

The Arab League as it has existed since its formation in 1945 has remained a loose political formation with a common political and cultural legacy, but it has not been made stronger through economic ties as in the case of European Union with open borders for the movement of goods and people and a common currency. It can be said that the European Union has been possible because it is a contiguous land mass, and that in the case of Arab League the territory it spans is much too vast, and it covers different geographical zones. But this could be turned into an advantage if the Arab countries can spot the complementarities of their geographical situations and the economic patterns that emerge from the geography. Unlike EU, members of the Arab League have a common language which would facilitate trade across the stretched out territories from Oman on the Indian Ocean to Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean.

But it seems that it would take a longer time to forge the economic ties among the members of the League. But they are coming together on the issue of climate change and there is the realisation that it is something that affects them all and they need to act together. The climate summits in Sharm Al-Sheikh in Egypt in 2022 and the one to be held in Dubai later this year has opened the way for Arab League countries to play an active role in setting the global agenda. Right now the focus is on the political agenda. King Abdullah of Jordan has talked about the importance of the setting up the Palestinian state to end the Palestine-Israel conflict, and Tunisian President Kais Said said that international silence on the aggression of Israel against Palestinians has to be called out. There is a general consensus among the Arab states that Palestine is a major issue for all of them and the solution lies in forming an independent Palestinian state.

Syrian President Assad observed that it is time that outsiders are prevented from interfering in the affairs of the Arab states. But the leaders have to agree that the outside powers can be kept out of the Arab affairs if the Arab states work closely with each other in protecting the interests and welfare of the Arab people spread across different states. Economic cooperation would indeed be a key element. The two Arab countries that are leading the economic resurgence of the region are the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

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