Arab summit: Kuwaiti leader in historic visit but Syria disputes remain
The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, said Thursday in Baghdad that his country would "overcome the suffering and injury" of the past, paying an historic reconciliation visit to Iraq. In a speech before the Arab summit, Sheikh Sabah expressed his "great joy as I set my foot on the soil of Iraq, now that this country has regained its freedom, its dignity and democracy after a dark period".
The emir arrived in Baghdad on Thursday to attend the Arab summit, making it the first visit since the invasion of his country by Saddam Hussein's army in 1990. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came to welcome him at the airport and the two men, together, have advanced on the red carpet before the guard of honor.
More than 20 years after the Gulf War, triggered by the invasion to Kuwait by Iraq, many disputes remain between the two countries, including the question of their common border and war reparations for the seven months of Kuwaiti occupation (August 1990-February 1991).
Ironically, the summit takes place at the Republican Palace, where, according to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the former dictator took the decision to attack Kuwait.
Dispute over Syria
Arab leaders gathered Thursday at a summit in Baghdad to show their support for the Syrian people, however, a call for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad will not be made at their meeting.
A mortar shell hit near the venue of the summit in spite of extraordinary security measures. The explosion occurred near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad, causing no casualties, said a police official. Iraqi jihadists called two days ago to "hit the headquarters of the Arab summit" on their website.
The summit officially began shortly before the recitation of the Koran. The opening address was delivered by the chairman of Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) Mustafa Abdeljalil, whose country held the rotating presidency.
His presence is the result of the revolutionary wave that hit the Arab world since the last Arab summit in Sirte (Libya) in 2010, which was chaired by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, deposed and killed last year.
Nine of the 21 Arab heads of state who were invited to the meeting (Syria was excluded because of its repression) were present, while the two most radical states on the Syrian issue, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have sent only junior officials.
In the "Declaration of Baghdad", of which AFP obtained a copy and be adopted by Arab leaders, they support "the legitimate desire for freedom and democracy of the Syrian people and support the peaceful transfer of authority. "
"They denounce violence, murder and bloodshed, and are in favor of a political solution through national negotiations and refuse foreign interference in the Syrian crisis".
They support "the mission of Kofi Annan to begin political negotiations between the government and the Syrian opposition on the basis of the initiative" approved by the UN Security Council and the Arab League.
The Arab countries appear divided on Syria. The Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, want to arm the opposition to remove Bashar al-Assad, while others prefer diplomacy.