Qatar hosts summit in relaxed atmosphere

April 6, 2013

Security was high around the venue of the Arab Summit in the Qatar capital Doha, on Monday but downtown, the atmosphere was much more relaxed.

Many foreigners, who make up the majority of the total population, said on the eve of the largest Arab meeting that they were not fully aware of the summit, saying that international gatherings have become a routine in the Arabian Gulf country.

“Doha now hosts so many international meetings that people cannot recall them all,” Wilson, a Kenyan driver, said. “Although the country is small geographically, it has succeeded in becoming a focal point in world politics,” he said, as he maneuvered his way through the traffic jam near the Islamic Museum on the Corniche.

Sultan, a policeman in his 20s, said that he was happy to have Arab leaders in his country, but insisted that his generation wanted concrete results.

“When I look at Europe, I wonder why we cannot have something similar,” he said. “They are so different from one another, yet they could set narrow interests aside and work on forming an alliance that served them. We Arabs have so much in common, mainly the race, the religion and the language, and yet we cannot agree on things that are of vital interests to the Arab nation,” he said.

Hotels reported high occupancy rates thanks to the summit, but also to the numerous Saudi families on short visits.

“Saudis are taking advantage of the school break in their home and of the pleasant weather to come here,” Biju, a receptionist, said. “We have had an excellent week thanks to the tourists and the journalists who have converged on Doha either for pleasure or business or both,” he said.

The landscape in the Qatari capital is constantly changing, making it a real challenge even for natives to pinpoint buildings or give robust directions.

“Large funds have been invested in turning the once-sleepy city into a capital that never sleeps,” Majed, a youthful Qatari media figure, said. “This is highly positive, but the challenges are also numerous and we do want progress, but we are also proud of our culture and heritage. The whole idea is to be able to combine both without overlooking our past or losing our sights on the promises of a rewarding future. We simply want to have a bright future blended with our glorious heritage.”

Official figures put the number of media people who were in Doha for the summit at 800.

Meawnile, several Arab leaders arrived in Doha on Monday ahead of the summit.

The summit, the second to be held in Qatar, will bring together 17 leaders while several countries will be represented by other senior figures.

Qatar Television on the afternoon and evening beamed live the arrival of the Arab leaders at the airport and the warm accolades by the country’s Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.

According to the agenda, Khudhair Al Khozai, Qatar’s deputy president, will open the official speeches as his country hands over the presidency to Qatar, the new chair, after holding it for one year following the 23rd summit held in Baghdad in March 2012.

Shaikh Hamad, the new chair, will follow with his address before Nabeel Al Arabi, the Arab League secretary general, delivers his speech.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will also speak during the opening session, followed by his fellow countryman, Ekme Al Deen, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), addresses the summit.

Arab leaders will then be given up to 90 minutes to give their speeches, according to the timing of their requests, sources in Doha said.

The second session, to be held behind closed doors, will start at 1.30pm and will end at 3pm, followed by lunch, the agenda, a copy of which was seen by Gulf News, said.

Issues high on the agenda include developments in Syria and Palestine, economic integration and the overhaul of the Arabic League, founded in 1945, but with limited changes since then.

The leaders re-convene on Wednesday at 11am to continue their discussions and endorse the Doha Declaration.

The final communiqué will be read out at 3pm, followed by a press conference.

Qatar hosted its first Arab League summit on March 30, 2009.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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