Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The need for an Arab summit | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The long standing institution of the Arab summit has always performed a vital role in Arab politics, with Arab states meeting to discuss fundamental and pivotal issues, especially the dangers surrounding the region. The summit used to crystallize agreed-upon policies that all in attendance should adhere towards in the future. It crystallized a leading axis upon which Arab affairs could be coordinated, an axis often made up of Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, where Egypt always performed a leading role.

Now there is a dire need for such a summit, but Egypt’s internal conditions and problems are preventing it from performing its desired leading role. Although Saudi Arabia stands out as a country qualified to assume this position, it is refraining from performing any role that may incite a rivalry with Egypt. This Saudi stance is admirable, but what is required of Saudi Arabia should not necessarily be interpreted as a move that entails rivalry with Egypt, for this role can be performed with Egypt’s agreement or even coordination. What matters is that the Arab world does not remain in limbo without a collective policy to govern it.

Egypt’s presence in any Arab political entity is extremely beneficial both to the country itself and to all other Arabs. However, when Egypt is so preoccupied with its internal problems to the extent that it cannot perform its customary role, then another Arab country must take over to help Egypt restore regular political activity and become a leader once again.

The leadership role is not a mere label for a state, rather it entails a series of of tasks, initiatives and hard work, and therefore it is crucially important that this role emerges through an Arab summit. Whenever there are specific tasks outlined by an Arab summit, then any contributions come naturally and away from alleged rivalries or unilateral mentalities. The benefits to be derived from a carefully formulated Arab policy introduced by one country or another far outweigh the sensitivities that may arise here or there. This is why Egypt was always encouraged to take the initiative, as the Arabs have always been keen on Egypt’s leading role.

There are several collective Arab economic and political interests that must interact with the international stage through a formulated policy. The Arab region cannot remain detached from such interactions considering its strategic location and the oil it produces and exports, and the inevitable strategic position it holds. Besides this, the permanent Arab-Israeli struggle cannot be managed or influenced without a collective Arab and international policy.

In fact, we should aspire to this particular task, regardless of the international horizons, because it beneficial first and foremost to the internal Arab situation. This is to say that when there are carefully formulated policies for every country to perform their role, a state of harmony, cooperation and coordination arises, which in turn is beneficial for everyone.

If we looked at our area from a regional perspective, we would find out that it consists of three powers: the Arabs, Iran and Turkey. For Iran and Turkey, each has its own independent policy, whereas a collective Arab policy seems absent. Therefore, there is a dire need for such a policy, which could help to establish cooperation and coordination with both Turkey and Iran. As a result, a collective regional direction could then emerge, with these three powers converging and becoming a global strategic weight.

At present, the relationship between these three powers is poor, and sometimes verging on the level of rivalry or hostility, whilst interests necessitate friendship, cooperation and coordination. Of course, such cooperation can be individually built with Turkey and Iran, with each Arab state adopting a separate policy. Yet, if a collective Arab approach was adopted, in accordance with a policy formulated through an Arab summit, then the regional and international impact would be far greater.

Within the Arab summit, there was always a convergence between the policies of three Arab states: Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. This created an engine that is now strongly required to motivate political work from a united Arab perspective. A regional power must take the helm and initiate this once again, whether through Egypt or Saudi Arabia, or both together.

What matters most is that this issue does not remain idle because of regional sensitivities, as I said previously. In order to address these sensitivities in particular, this only highlights the need for an Arab summit to rebuild a strategic axis.

Each country can be content with its internal policies, but in turn its foreign policies will only be of minor significance, whilst the Arabs could jointly produce larger and far more effective policies.

We must take note here that for quite some time, the rest of the world has been creating regional coalitions and moving to engage with them. For the Arabs, we cannot remain detached from this, unless we seek only to play minor political roles, whereas in fact we have far greater potential.

Once again, I will point out that Saudi Arabia is now qualified to play a leading role. It will be a great loss for each individual state if the Arabs do not hasten to adopt a foreign policy tantamount to their internal policies, in terms of size and weight. Foreign policies must be reflective of internal policies, and there should be no room for imbalances, otherwise interests can be jeopardized.

Perhaps, there is a need for bilateral Arab consultations before this issue can be put forth for broader discussions in an Arab summit. Therefore, from now on, we must act to carry out bilateral negotiations first, and then commence collective discussions to create a carefully formulated collective policy, through an Arab summit, in which each state can perform its role.