Syria to be focus of Arab Summit as GCC rift put on the back burner
A Syrian flag (C) is displayed next to the empty Syrian seat during the opening session of the Arab League Foreign Ministers' meeting in Kuwait City on March 23, 2014 ahead of the annual Arab League summit. (AFP)
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As the Arab Summit kicks off in Kuwait Tuesday, the ongoing Syrian conflict is expected to take centre stage of the talks whilst an ongoing spat between Gulf states over Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is likely to stay off the agenda.
With the now three-year-old civil war being the main focus of the summit, Syria’s opposition National Coalition (NC) chief Ahmad al-Jarba is expected to address Arab leaders during the opening session, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
Syria’s opposition will not be filling the country’s empty Arab League seat for a second time – it was given the seat at Doha’s 2013 summit – as it hasn’t met the legal requirements, Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi told AFP. The Syrian government was suspended from the Arab League following its brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters in 2011.
Brahimi said Monday that for the time being, another round of peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition was “out of the question,” according to AFP.
The so-called Geneva II talks were called off by Brahimi in February, and no date for a further bout of talks has yet been decided upon.
During Sunday’s preparatory meeting on Sunday, Arab ministers called for a ceasefire in Syria – urging the UN to pass a resolution under Chapter 7, that involves the use of force - in the face of a sprawling conflict that shows no sign of abating.
The Syrian crisis entered its fourth year earlier this month and has resulted in the deaths of at least 140,000 people and the displacement of millions of Syrians.
Meanwhile, an ongoing region-wide rift has apparently impacted on the number of states attending the Arab Summit, AFP reported, as Kuwait – who is hosting the meeting for the first time – said that 13 heads of state had confirmed their attendance. There is a low-turnout from Kuwait’s Gulf neighbors, according to AFP.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have all recalled their diplomatic envoys from fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member Qatar in protest at Doha's support for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group, which has been branded a terrorist organisation by Cairo and Riyadh.
Seemingly in response to the rift, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman have all sent delegations to the Arab Summit that are not being led by a head of state. Aside from Kuwait, only Qatar will be represented at the level of head of state, according to AFP.
Despite the Muslim Brotherhood-fuelled rift threatening to derail GCC relations, the dispute is not likely to be solved – or even brought up – at the Kuwait meeting, with Egyptian Foreign Minsiter telling reporters reporters it was not possible to forge a compromise with Qatar during the summit because "the wound is too deep," according to AFP.
A Kuwait foreign ministry official Khaled al-Jarallah also said the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors would "be resolved within the Gulf house", not at the Arab summit, AFP reported.