Summit set to start as Syrian representation drama ends

April 6, 2013

Hours before the Arab summit in the Qatari capital Doha opens, the concern about Syria’s representation at the annual meeting has eclipsed all other issues.

A Qatar-led concerted push by several countries wanted the opposition National Council to take the seat vacant since November 2011 when the Arab League suspended Syria after the army launched a bloody crackdown on rebels and the government refused a pan-Arab peace plan.

However, resistance, ostensibly on legal grounds from other member countries that included Algeria and Iraq, stalled the agreement to allow the Syrian opposition to take the seat at the summit, held under the slogan “The Arab Nation—Current Situation and Future Perspective”.

Algeria’s foreign minister Mourad Medelci said that his country’s position was based on its “insistence on respecting the Arab League charter and the lack of clarity on the representatives of the Syrian opposition”.

The complicated issue was reportedly settled by late Monday and Muath Al Khatib, the National Coalition leader who one day earlier announced his resignation “so that he could work more freely”, arrived in the evening in Doha heading an eight-member delegation that included Gassan Hitto, the provisional prime minister.

Damascus reacted furiously to the announcement.

“The League has handed Syria’s stolen seat to bandits and thugs,” Syrian official daily Al Thawra said.

“They have forgotten that it is the people who grant the powers and not the emirs of obscurantism and sand,” it said, a clear reference to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

A state television station said: “Qatar wants to bypass the rules of the Arab League by giving the seat of a founding member of the League to a coalition that obeys only the money and fuel of the Gulf and submits to American dictates.”

Al Khatib, seen as a moderate, is expected to deliver a speech “in the name of the Syrian people” as Arab leaders address the summit publicly before they hold their sessions behind closed doors.

Reports in Doha said that he would highlight “the heroic resistance of the Syrian people to the onslaught of the Damascus regime and the support of most Arab countries to the National Coalition representing the Syrians at the Arab League.”

The Syrian coalition is likely to push for “arming the Syrian rebels, regardless of the European stance, and to make providing the weapons issue an Arab concern”.

The last-minute drama on Syria is not expected to be replayed in the final communiqué of the summit, even though reports mentioned divergences over whether it should ask Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to resign or to demand that he push for ending the oppression of the Syrians and fulfil their aspirations for genuine democratic reforms.”

The pan-Arab meeting will be the first since Palestine was granted non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations.

Al Khatib whose resignation is yet to be accepted by the National Coalition was received upon his arrival by Qatar’s Crown Prince Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.

The crown prince also welcomed the Egyptian president who arrived late in the evening in the Qatari capital.

All the other leaders who arrived earlier were received by the country’s Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.



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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