Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Why Attend the Damascus Summit? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

I see no reason for surprise over Saudi Arabia’s decision to send its representative [Ahmad Qattan, Saudi’s ambassador to the Arab League] to attend the Arab Summit in Damascus. In fact; the question that needs to be posed is this: Why attend?

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallim made an announcement a few days ago in which he said that the success of the forthcoming summit lies in the fact that it will convene in Damascus and without any delays “despite pressure and blackmail attempts”.

So if the success of the summit depends on it being held in Damascus on time then why is the attendance of the heads of states required if Syria has already achieved the success that it aspires to? Why does it seek to ensure the participation of Arab leaders, and why did Syria declare that the attendees are the ones who will ‘make’ the summit?

Ensuring the success of summits and striving to confirm the attendance of key players is the hosting state’s duty – not that of the guests. Any state that seeks to hold a fruitful summit needs to create reasons for its success, not by blackmailing Arab states and intimidating them with numerous accusations while criticising their positions – especially since their observations merit attention.

Moreover, a successful summit is not achieved by sending the invitation with aides and Red Crescent personnel [Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister, Prince Saud al Faisal, received his invitation via Syrian Minister of State for Red Crescent Affairs, Dr. Bashar al Shaar who visited the kingdom earlier this month].

All what we hear from the Syrians is the continuous reiteration that the Damascus summit is the summit of Arab solidarity but I do not know what solidarity they are referring to. Does solidarity mean absenting an Arab state from the summit by disrupting Lebanon’s presidential elections? Does Arab solidarity mean that the Arabs should congregate in Damascus to bless the Syrian occupation of Lebanon in the name of geography, history and the honour of resistance and fear of confrontation? Is it possible to hold the Arab summit when the leadership of its council is entrusted to an Arab state that believes rapprochement with Iran outweighs the importance of unity and rapprochement with the Arabs themselves?

Some may say that politics is about interests, these are emotional words, however the language of interests dictates that we do not applaud an Arab country for invading another. The language of interests also decrees that it is not in anyone’s interest to assassinate an Arab state and a member of the Arab League. Interests also dictate that it is unacceptable to disrupt and internally divide Arab states by dispatching militias and Syrian and Iranian agents there. The language of interests deems it suicide if we were to transform into a negotiation card in the hands of Iran – even if it is done via Syria.

There is no justification for the presence of heads of states at the Damascus summit –notwithstanding the amusing joke made by the Baathist Syrian Mufti Ahmed Bader Hassoun who said that attending the Arab summit in Damascus “is the duty of every Arab leader and those who do not attend the summit without a valid accuse would be committing a sin. There is no political excuse for Arab leaders to not attend or to send their representatives because the Arab nation is in need of their presence.”

And what is the sentence for what Syria has been doing in Lebanon, Maulana*? What is the sentence for Syria’s alliance with Iran in Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and even Syria itself, especially since we read and hear about Syria’s desire to resume negotiations with Israel on a daily basis? In addition to flirting here and hinting there at a time when Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq have been transformed into harrowing massacres in the name of resistance – all this while the Golan Heights enjoys a calm that even the Syrians envy.

* Maulana: Title given to a learned man, also lord or master. It refers to the Syrian Mufti in this context.