Key takeaways from Arab League ‘unification’ summit

The summit was the first to be held since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Leaders and diplomats from the Arab League met in Algeria on Tuesday for the first time in three years to discuss issues concerning the region.

Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was the only leader from the Gulf to attend the regional summit, where he met several Arab presidents and officials. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was also in attendance as a guest of honour.

Described as ‘the summit of unification’ by Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the high-profile summit coincided with the anniversary of the Algerian War of Independence against French colonialism.

During his opening speech, President Tebboune highlighted the “central and primary” Palestinian cause. The Algerian leader called on the UN to grant Palestine a full membership at the intergovernmental organisation, echoing previous demands by the Arab League.

Palestine was only granted the status of a “non-member observer state” at the international organisation in 2012 under a resolution adopted by the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Israel, which has continued to occupy Palestine for decades, enjoys full membership at the UN after receiving its membership in 1949. 

This was a year after the start of the Nakba, or catastrophe, in which Israel forcibly displaced and killed Palestinians.

“The Palestinian question is the mother of all questions,” Tebboune said while slamming the Zionist regime’s “aggression against Palestinians”.

The Algerian president also called for the unity of all Palestinian factions, saying it is “the only way out of the impasse” in Palestine. 

Last month, Algerian mediation resulted in the signing of the Algeria Declaration between various Palestinian rival factions following a long stalemate in negotiations.

The latest Arab summit is the first to take place since the signing of the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020 between Israel and various regional states. 

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were the only Gulf nations to sign the controversial accord. Morocco and Sudan later normalised with Israel, just months after the signing of the deal.

Qatar and Algeria both see eye-to-eye in the Palestinian cause, both staunchly refusing to normalise with the occupying state.

However, the two countries’ positions regarding Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad regime vary.

Leading up to the summit, Algeria has attempted to reinstate the Syrian regime’s membership to the Arab League following its suspension in 2011. 

The decision came during the Arab Spring, when Assad launched a violent crackdown on peaceful protestors, plunging the country into a deadly war.

On the other hand, Qatar has repeatedly expressed its refusal to normalise with the Assad regime and opposed its return to the bloc.

In September, Sheikh Tamim told French outlet Le Point that the reasons that led to the suspension of Syria’s Arab League membership in the first place still remain as issues more than a decade on.

Russia-Ukraine

As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, the Algerian president highlighted the crisis triggered by the latest geopolitical tensions. 

The war has impacted countries in the region that relied heavily on Ukrainian and Russian exports of wheat, with Egypt and Lebanon among the nations that suffered the most.

The Arab League’s Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called for a strategy to address the food crisis. 

Echoing similar sentiments, Gutteres said the UN is working on “extending Black Sea Grain Initiative” and leading initiatives to mitigate the crisis.

In July, Turkey brokered a grain export agreement between Russia and Ukraine following negotiations between the rival countries. Qatar had previously praised the agreement as well as Turkey’s role, describing it as “a step in the right direction” to address global food shortages.

The war also triggered a global energy crisis as global economies were beginning to recover from the consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak, which had disrupted global markets in 2020.

As a key producer and exporter of liquified natural gas, Qatar has called for the need to resolve the crisis while offering to support its international partners in times of need.

Last month, Qatar’s amir said that the expansion of the country’s mega gas field “will have a significant impact on mitigating the repercussions” of the current energy crisis “in the short and medium terms.”

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