Arab Summit Disrupted by the Coronavirus

The Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, announced that the Arab Summit would be postponed to the middle of the current year. He said the new date of the 31st Arab Summit would be determined by Algeria, in coordination with the Arab League. Aboul Gheit had said earlier that the current global developments, particularly the heath concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, raised concerns about holding meetings and gatherings at this time.

The coronavirus has become a sign of death, emanating from the Far East. The world is still suffering from its impact on global health, and now the virus is affecting world markets, causing prices to fall at an alarming pace.

But it seems that this impact was not enough for the deadly virus. Fears over the coronavirus have overshadowed this year’s Arab Summit. In a precautionary step, a decision was made to suspend the Summit to protect public health.

Since the early days of its outbreak, the virus has disrupted the political agendas of countries, causing leaders to take formal decisions and measures in response. The ability to postpone summits and global gatherings became a new feature of the deadly disease.

Described as a “health-political approach,” the 31st Arab Summit was postponed to June, due to the rapid developments taking place in the world in light of the effects of the Coronavirus, and the different views regarding the return of Syria’s membership to the Arab League.

Although the statements by Aboul Gheit had only highlighted the “current global circumstances” without a more specific clarification of the indications of the word “global,” several sources confirmed the Algerian desire to host the Summit that would bring Syria back to the Arab League to play a regional role which, according to the sources, Algeria is seeking to enhance.

Apparently, the delay is attributed not only to the fears of the Coronavirus. Observers suggest that the summit was also delayed to gain more time to mobilize support for the resolution on Syria, and to initiate necessary communications. Syria’s membership in the Arab League has been suspended since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, and its return to the League was tabled several times.

Aboul Gheit stressed that many Arab countries are willing to reinstate Syria’s membership; however, there is no indication of any specific or clear intentions drafted in writing that the Arab community and the full membership of the League are willing to bring Syria back to the League. He added that until now, Syria’s position regarding its reinstatement is unknown and that time would reveal the true intentions of all member-states over the coming days before the summit. Last month, Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum called for ending Syria’s membership freeze, confirming the decisive Algerian position in this respect. Boukadoum told how the absence of Syria had a negative impact on the League of Arab States and stressed that not activating the membership of Syria is a loss to all members.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum, Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed hope that the Arab summit might be held before the end of June. He said the decision would be taken in coordination with Algeria, the host country of the 31st Summit, which was scheduled for the end of March.