Algeria summit: Important Files and Deep Divisions
Op-ed | This article tackles the thirty-first Arab Summit, held in Algiers on November 1 and 2, 2022, as well as the most important issues on its agenda
by Hazem Salem Dmour
- Release Date – Nov 1, 2022
The thirty-first Arab Summit is held on November 1 and 2, 2022 in Algiers, after a three-year hiatus due to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last Arab Summit was held in March 2019 in Tunisia. This year's summit comes in light of the continuation of old challenges, and the emergence of new Arab, regional, and international challenges, to say the least, fateful challenges facing the Arab countries and their official umbrella: League of Arab States.
Although observers and analysts opinions did not carry many expectations for the results of this Summit, but the mere fact that holding such summit represents an event that requires considering it and predicting what its outputs may carry, especially in light of the events acceleration at all levels, an acceleration that may bring with it important changes, that the Arab countries will not be distant from.
Signing the "Algiers Declaration" for Palestinian reconciliation on October 13, 2022 was entitled "Reunification Conference for Achieving the Palestinian National Unity", while the thirty-first Arab Summit is entitled the Arab "Reunification" Summit, where "reunification" seems to be an Algerian concern, that demonstrates how deep the crisis is, how wide the divisions are among Arab countries. Therefore, the priority is of unifying the efforts. The Summit also has signs of the Algerian presidency's quest to activate Algeria's Arab and regional role in the next stage.
The Arab "reunification" summit, even at the formal level, will not be a "complete" summit in terms of the participation of Arab heads of state, where 15 Arab leaders are expected to participate, in the absence of some leaders, especially from the Arab Gulf countries, mainly His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein, Saudi Crown Prince, and Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman, President of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed Bin Zayed, King Hamad Bin Isa of Bahrain, Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq of Oman, and Emir of the State of Kuwait Nawaf Sabah, as well as King Mohammed VI of Morocco and outgoing Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
Algeria’s Summit agenda is burdened with issues. Such summit can be described as ambitious in addressing a large number of political and economic files and issues ، In press statements to Algerian radio, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit pointed out that the priorities, presented at the Algeria Summit, are relate to "saving Arab countries exposed to interventions, settling the situation of the Arab region, and finding solutions", which are details-crowded priorities in themselves.
In the details of the priorities, approved by the Preparatory Ministerial Council for the Summit, the Palestinian Cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict, the situations in Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, as well as the Arab food security, the file of the al-Nahda Dam crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia, the current international and regional developments, in addition to an item submitted by Algeria on the reform and development of the Arab League, as well as the draft resolutions, submitted by the Economic and Social Council, were highlighted.
Each issue on the Summit’s agenda is capable of provoking a lot of disagreements over it. In the first priority to which Aboul Gheit referred –for the purpose of example only - the scale of divergence regarding interpreting the meanings of only "rescue" and "interventions" highlights the intensity of polarization between Arab positions, whether on Iranian or Turkish interventions. It is difficult, if not impossible, to put those positions together, unless the details are not addressed, and only when returning to generalities on which everyone agrees, at least in theory.
What applies to the previous example applies to the rest of the Summit’s agenda’s issues, as the official Arab positions, whether at the level of each country individually, or at the level of axes and alignments, are known and declared positions on all these issues. The aspects of contradiction and disagreement among the Arab positions are no secret to tell.
Even the issues that are almost "procedural" such as the issue of Syria's vacant seat in the Arab League, have not been resolved in the preparatory ministerial council for the Summit, nor will they be raised at the summit.
What about the Details and Beyond?
Between the agreed-on broad priorities, and the procedural issues that have not been addressed or resolved, there are some of the issues that are supposed to be the subject of discussion at the Summit can be addressed. So, how such issues be discussed, and what could result from that discussion?
The first of these issues is the Palestinian Cause, which is going through one of its most difficult times, both at the level of the internal Palestinian situation and at the level of the relationship with Israel. The internal Palestinian situation is mired in division, and is suffocated by a financial crisis, while the relationship with Israel is open to all possibilities of escalation, in light of the difficult security situation on a hand, and the suspension of the political track for many years on the other hand. What can the Arab summit offer to that issue other than several "central" paragraphs in its final statement? What could change in the Palestinian situation after the conclusion of that summit? Will we see advanced Arab steps towards pressuring Israel to resume the settlement process in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy?
Those questions about the Palestinian situation, and other questions, are as important as the questions of the Syrian situation. What can the Arab summit offer to get out of the Syrian crisis and its catastrophic repercussions? Or what can it do in the face of the Foreign Ministry in the Syrian arena, especially in light of Syria's absence from the summit, and also in light of the inability to make a decision to return Syria's vacant seat to Summit! There are similar questions relate to the complex situation in Lebanon, politically, economically, and socially, in light of Lebanon's absence from the summit!
And what about al-Nahda Dam file? Is there an official Arab "position" on the crisis of that dam and its serious repercussions on the largest Arab country? Is there even Arab support for the Egyptian position on that crisis? What can the Arab summit do to intervene in resolving that crisis? What about Libya, which is contested by axes and blocs? Is there an official Arab "perception" of getting out of its intractable crisis?
All these thorny political issues are no more fortunate than economic issues, foremost among which is the issue of "Arab food security". Thus, does the Arab League have an economic strategy to enhance food security? How can Arab countries provide that security in light of the global food crisis? What about the lack of minimal coordination and cooperation at the economic level? Is it possible to talk about Arab food security, in the absence of economically balanced Arab countries such as the Arab Gulf countries?
What about the reform and development of the League of Arab States submitted by Algeria? Is there an official Arab "will" towards that reform and development? How does this fit in light of multiple Arab-Arab differences?
All these details, ultimately, revert to three questions related to the priorities of the summit, mentioned by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, the first of which is how will the summit work to save the Arab countries exposed to interventions? Second, how will the summit contribute to the settlement of the situation in the Arab region? Third, what solutions will the Summit work to find? There is nothing on the horizon of the summit to indicate that it has satisfactory answers, especially in light of the absence of important political and economic factors, particularly Saudi Arabia and Syria.
In conclusion, the summit takes place in the midst state of stillness, that extends across the Arab world, although the scale of the fateful challenges, experienced by the Arabs, calls for many changes, but it seems that the expectations are not high this time too, and the final communiqué of the Algeria Summit will emerge in a traditional consensus and "burdened" with eloquence, pending the new date of the next summit.
Hazem Salem Dmour
General Manager / Specialized Researcher in International Relations and Strategic Studies