Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:07 pm (KSA) 16:07 pm (GMT)

Arab FMs talk unity as hawks rise in Israel

Arab FMs meet to stage the Annual Arab summit amid the rise of hawks in Israel
Arab FMs meet to stage the Annual Arab summit amid the rise of hawks in Israel

Arab foreign ministers concluded a preparatory meeting Saturday ahead of the Arab League's annual summit in Doha and called for unity and reconciliation between Arab states as hawkish right-wingers prepare to assume power in Israel.

The ministers met to consolidate Arab reconciliation and to bypass their disputes over the last Israeli offensive on Gaza in the upcoming summit of Arab League Monday.

During the summit leaders of the 22-member body will seek to close ranks largely split over how to respond to Israel's Gaza offensive and the growing influence of Shiite Iran in the region.

 The Doha summit will serve to streamline Arab relations and prelaunch a common Arab action that has a firm basis 
Qatari official

A Qatari official expressed "hope that the Doha summit will serve to streamline Arab relations and prelaunch a common Arab action that has a firm basis."

"Inter-Arab reconciliation figures high on the summit's agenda," Arab League deputy chief Ahmed bin Helli told AFP ahead of the two-day gathering.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia met the presidents of Egypt and Syria on March 11 to promote such reconciliation, two months after another ice-breaking mini-summit in Kuwait.

The two meetings allowed Egypt and Saudi Arabia to improve contacts with Syria—a major Arab ally of Iran—which had worsened during the war on Gaza.

Absence of Mubarak

 Egypt will be represented at the Doha Arab summit by Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mufid Shehab 
Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egypt FM

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said President Hosni Mubarak will not attend the Arab summit in Qatar, although the biggest Arab state will still be represented at the annual gathering.

No official reason was given, but diplomats told AFP that Egypt was still smarting over Doha's stance during the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip in December and January.

"Egypt will be represented at the Doha Arab summit by Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mufid Shehab," Abul Gheit told reporters.

He also stayed away from a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Doha on Saturday in advance of the summit.

Egypt-Qatar relations have been strained since the 22-day Gaza war, when Cairo viewed Doha as leading a media campaign against Egypt's policy towards the Palestinian enclave.

In the meantime, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has spoke of the "positive impact" of his country's reconciliation with Saudi Arabia.

Muallem urged Israel to accept an Arab peace initiative on offer since 2002. It calls on the Jewish state to withdraw from all Arab land occupied since 1967 in return for full normalization of ties.

Peace and Israeli hawks

 As much as we appreciate Iran's support for Arab causes, we would like to see it channeled through Arab legality and be in harmony with its objectives 
Saud al-Faisal, Saudi FM

But analysts fear that prospects for peace could be further complicated by the pending return to power in Israel of Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-wing Likud party rejects the creation of a Palestinian state.

The chief Palestinian peace negotiator warned Saturday the Middle East peace process may not survive if the new Israeli government fails to accept a two-state solution for the crisis.

"The peace process lives on borrowed time," Saeb Erakat wrote in an article in the Washington Post. "With its credibility at stake, it will not survive another round of failed negotiations—and neither will the two-state solution."

Erakat said the conservative Israeli government led by Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu must unequivocally affirm its support for the two-state solution and the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.

Sunni Arab governments are also wary of growing Iranian influence in the region, and especially Tehran's support for militant groups such as Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

"As much as we appreciate Iran's support for Arab causes, we would like to see it channeled through Arab legality and be in harmony with its objectives," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said this month.

Iran and Sudan

The Arab League urged the Security Council to use its power to suspend the case against Bashir

There is also concern about Tehran's nuclear program amid fears in the West that Iran is trying to construct an atomic bomb. The Islamic republic insists that its nuclear drive is entirely peaceful.

Summit host Qatar enjoys good relations with Iran and has been seeking to cement its role as mediator in many regional crises, including the deadly conflict in Darfur.

The Arab summit is also expected to discuss the arrest warrant for the Sudanese President Bashir issued by the International Criminal Court earlier this month for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Sudanese clerics warned him against travelling to the Qatar summit, amid calls by the ICC to Doha to cooperate with the arrest warrant even though Qatar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court.

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