Arab Situation Between Two Summits

  • 28 March 2006

Perhaps, one of the distinguishing characteristic of the Arab summit, which will be held today in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, is that it is the 30th Summit held by Arab leaders since the founding summit meeting held in Cairo in 1946. This summit may also be characterized by inter-Arab disagreements that make it difficult to predict the course of the discussions. Another notable feature is that it is being held after approximately 40 years of the famous "Three No's" summit held in Khartoum. Between Khartoum 1967 and Khartoum 2006, huge transformations have taken place and several variables have cropped up on the political scene. The Israeli conflict has ceased to be the only issue that preoccupies Arabs, as they are encountering a long list of problems. Some have recently surfaced, while others are temporarily activated only at summit meetings and later shelved until the next summit at another Arab capital.

Out of the dozens of both regional and international political and economic blocs and organizations, Arab summits are accompanied with considerable amount of noise and political clamor. Speculations are being made about the level of participation by member countries. This issue has turned to be an obsession. Chances of success or failure are assessed according to the level of representation, rather than the substance of the discussions and their outcome. In these summits, the main concern of the host country is to avoid problems and conflicts in order to dodge the blame for the failure of the event. It is also remarkable that the outcome of almost all summit meetings has been disappointing and below expectations. They have fallen short of peoples' aspirations as they have sought to "calm the situation" and resort to conventional political discourse that has proved unsuccessful in addressing the acute crises facing the region. It is also remarkable that the crises and challenges facing Arab countries are rising, with many more additional problems added every year. Agenda swell, and priorities diverge, thus becoming even more complicated as years roll on. This could be attributed to putting solutions on hold, tendency towards procrastination and escape coupled with ineffective statements. It could also be attributed to conflict of interests and objectives or the contentious nature of issues and problems. It has become difficult to prioritize these problems in a manner that takes into account the higher interests of all parties. Eventually, each Arab summit finds itself confronted with more difficult and more serious issues than the previous one.

The regional scene, from the Arabian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean, is tense and liable to explode. Hence, will the Khartoum summit measure up to the level of challenges facing the region, address the current problems and realize qualitative breakthroughs that consider the peoples' interests above the fiery political discourse, or will it suffice with reiterating the outcomes of earlier summits, resort to postponements, procrastinations and ignore the risks, crises and disagreements?