Arab foreign ministers spent the day on Tuesday trying to draft a collective statement at the Kuwait Summit. They could have written it in a matter of minutes, since the disputes were not considered worthy of so much time in order to write a formal statement, which will only be read by the ministers’ own staff anyway. They disagreed over every word, comma and full stop. However, the conference was no place for arguing, since all disputes were dwarfed after King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz called for an end to quarreling, starting with himself and leading by example.
Live on television, in front of the entire world, King Abdullah took everybody by surprise by announcing that he rejected the continuation of inter-Arab rifts and called for all leaders to do the same. King Abdullah took everybody by surprise not only because he rejected quarrelling, but also because he stood in front of everybody and said “We are wrong”. This was unlike the usual “You’re wrong and I’m right” nature of Arab speeches. Admitting mistakes is not easy for any leader. By doing this King Abdullah situated these leaders in front of their own people to test their courage and they would either follow in the footsteps of the big man himself, who rejected bricking and called for unity, or face their nations.
In actual fact, they chose to follow King Abdullah’s example an hour after his speech. They caught up with him at the host’s Al Bayan palace where the coffee was passed around amongst the leaders who came to the summit ready to fight but left pledging their support for cooperation and reconciliation. It is hoped that from this reconciliation, the Arab citizen would be closer to achieving his rights to a dignified life and gaining support for his cause.
The Gaza issue overshadowed the Kuwait summit, which was designed to be the most important of Arab summits in 50 years because it intended to launch long-term regional economic projects. Ideas were proposed, and if they became a reality, they would change our region, serving over 200 million Arabs, tackling permanent regional issues such as famine, disease and unemployment.
Unfortunately, the foreign ministers took a lot of time, effort and attention away from the Arab ministers of economy and development for whom the summit has special relevance. It never occurred to the organizers in Kuwait two years ago, when an agreement was reached for the summit and when work began on it, that the Arab states would reach the summit humiliated, defeated and somber.
The foreign ministers came to deal with the situation, expressing their individual opinions and the policy of their country. Fortunately, despite the bad luck, the Kuwait summit ended well after months of grief and bloodshed.
Although it restrained some inter-Arab problems, a goal that Kuwait can be credited with, it is feared that the slogan of building a comprehensive Arab economy to serve the Arab world has fallen into a political quagmire for the umpteenth time. The continuous preoccupation with political disputes reveals the extent to which Arab governments are ignorant of the danger of economic threats.