The annual Arab League summit launches on Monday in Nouakchott, Mauritania with an agenda pertinent to current events, including combating terrorism and the ongoing turmoil in Libya and Syria.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will not be attending the summit and Egypt will be represented by Prime Minister Sherif Ismai, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Abou Zaid told Daily News Egypt. No information is available as to the reasons behind the president’s absence, Abou Zaid added.
At the ministerial meeting held ahead of the summit, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affiars Sameh Shoukry passed the authority of the summit’s chair to Mauritania after Egypt held the position in 2015.
During the meeting, Shoukry said that Egypt has collaborated with other Arab countries to keep the Palestinian conflict at the top of the international agenda.
Shoukry added: “The league cooperated positively with all initiatives that seek fair solutions for the Palestinian conflict. These solutions should allow Palestinians to live their day-to-day lives away from any danger.”
The reason behind the unrest in the region is that nations have retreated in the fight against militants and radicals, Shoukry said, adding that further political and security measures need to be implemented to defeat terrorism and militancy.
In his speech, Shoukry suggested that all member states should collaborate together to halt any regional conflicts, pointing out that Egypt has worked hard throughout its presidency of the Arab League, as well as in its non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council, to push Arab issues onto the international agenda.
He concluded by saying that the collaboration between Arab countries is still insufficient. If Arab countries want to retain their interests amid the fast-paced developments nowadays then further cooperation and collaboration is absolutely necessary.
The French intervention in Libya was not discussed during the foreign minister’s meeting held ahead of the summit despite the situation in Libya being at the top of the summit’s agenda.
During a press conference, spokesperson for the Arab League secretary general Mahmoud Afify said the French intervention was not discussed because it wasn’t included in the agenda.
Political analyst Youssef Cherif told Daily News Egypt that the Arab League is having one of its least effective meetings ever now that some of its nations are facing severe internal turmoil. Whatever the outcome of this meeting was, it will not have any repercussions on Libya, he said.
Cherif added: “Many countries are intervening in Libya directly or via proxies (UAE, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Sudan, etc) without coordination and against each other. So any condemnation of the French intervention would require blaming them as well.”
The summit will be held amid the absence of Moroccan representatives. This absence is expected after Morocco withdrew from hosting the annual summit in February, despite the Arab League charter which stipulates that the next host of annual summit is set by alphabetic order of the member states. Egypt hosted the event in 2015 and was to be followed by Morocco in 2016.
The Moroccan foreign ministry released a statement to clarify the reasons for the withdrawal, stating: “In an absence of decisions and concrete initiatives, this summit will be a mere gathering for speeches that imply fake unity among Arab countries.”
Sudanese president Omar El-Bashir is expected to participate in the Arab League summit, despite the arrest warrant against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mauritania has not ratified the ICC Rome Statute, a treaty that established the court, so the chances of the Mauritanian authorities arresting El-Bashir are low.
The Sudanese leader also travelled several times to countries that ratified the establishment treaty and was not arrested there either. El-Bashir is wanted for committing genocide and war crimes. He is also facing charges over the Darfur conflict that allegedly claimed more than 300,000 lives.
During the ministerial meeting, the Sudanese government asked the attendees to take practical steps to support its stance against the ICC.
At last year’s African Union summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, controversy erupted when the government did not arrest El-Bashir during his visit to attend the summit.
The Arab League summit was held in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2015. It coincided with a conflict in Yemen between Houthi militants and the government of the president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. During the summit, Hadi requested the assistance and support of Arab countries in his fight against Houthi forces.
Earlier in March, twenty Arab foreign ministers elected Ahmed Aboul-Gheit as the new secretary general, after Nabil El-Araby decided not to carry on for another term.