Next Arab Summit: How Different Can It Be?

  • 27 April 2007

The contention that the next Arab Summit in Riyadh will be held at a time of great difficulty is nothing new, as this has been the case with Arab summits since their commencement in Anshas in 1946. However, what is new is that the Arab world has not seen a greater proliferation of crises at any point in its history than at present. Again, the effect of its internal problems has not been to the benefit of foreign parties either, as recent years have demonstrated. The region has also not witnessed a political power vacuum of the sort it is witnessing presently, wherein regional powers are trying to fill the void to serve their interests. The region has also not witnessed sectarian tensions on this scale that threatens to implode countries and turn them into arena for destructive civil wars.

For this reason, the Riyadh summit is facing a different type of challenge that is not related to any one country or group of countries but concerns all Arab nations. It is an existential challenge that threatens to transform the Arab world into a scene of civil wars. In this respect, Arab nations wish the summit to be different, which makes decisions that would be implemented, even if they be few in number, instead of making many decisions that cover a large number of issues but lack the will for implementing them effectively. Consequently, such decisions lose their meaning and the confidence of people in the Arab forum recedes. Thus, such an effort does not exert real pressure on the regional and international scene.

In order for the Riyadh summit to be different, a wide-ranging and honest exchange of ideas is necessary in which all inter-Arab differences are tackled at the discussion table, instead of the conventional Arab tradition of showing formal solidarity that hides differences. Otherwise, it would give these differences and conflicts a chance to escalate and eventually blow up. For this reason, clear and specific positions must be taken at the summit, which cannot be given different interpretations or explanations. One of the problems with the Arab summits has been its issuance of ambiguous statements and resolutions and vague positions that appease all parties. Consequently, the pronouncements become obscure and sometimes contradictory, and its impact does not extend outside the very rooms from which the participants formulated them. In itself, it becomes a target or a means to register positions and clear records. Following up on the implementation of resolutions is considered a primary pillar that makes decision-making worthwhile. For this reason, it is required that the Arab Summit in Riyadh should be set within the framework of an effective and serious follow up action for its resolutions and for future summit resolutions, so that it does not merely fold its page at the end of the summit. However, it should continue to execute the resolutions been issued, because the record of Arab summits is filled with unfulfilled resolutions. Even if a few of these resolutions had been implemented, it would have changed the face of the political, economical, military and security scenario of the Arab world. Instead, these resolutions have remained locked in drawers as time and events have bypassed them.