Postponed Arab summit to be held next month in Cairo
Following the unprecedented postponement of the Arab summit in Tunisia, Egyptian president Mubarak's office said in a statement Sunday it would host the Arab summit as soon as the 22 Arab nations could agree on a time.
"Egypt welcomes the convening of the summit in the
country of the headquarters of the Arab League (Egypt) at the earliest possible time that can be agreed on," the
Yemeni foreign ministry officials said Egypt's president and Yemen's president agreed during a phone conversation that the summit will be held in Cairo on April 16th.
Earlier, in a step never before taken in the Arab League's 57-year history, the planned summit was postponed two days before it was to open because of differences over peace overtures to Israel and a U.S.-backed plan to bring more reforms to the Middle East.
The delay of the summit, scheduled to open Monday, reflected the political turmoil among Arab states.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa warned that the postponement in Tunis would have "dangerous consequences" for Arab unity.
Mussa said in a statement published by the Egyptian news agency MENA that all Arab nations shared the responsibility for the unprecedented postponement ordered by the summit host, Tunisian President President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, and not just Tunisia.
"The situation is serious and immediate action must be taken," he added.
Arab leaders had hoped to use the event to relaunch the Saudi-crafted peace initiative and to submit their own proposals for political reforms. The Saudi plan of two years ago spoke about peace with Israel in return for a withdrawal from all lands occupied in the 1967 war.
However, Israel's killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin provoked widespread outrage in the Arab world, making it politically risky for some states to pursue a peace initiative.
No new date for the summit was announced.
Tunisian Foreign Ministry official Hatem bin Salem told reporters the differences were "particularly over the issues of modernization and reform...to reactivate Arab institutions."
"Tunisia strongly regrets the postponement of this summit on which Arab and international opinion has pinned great hopes, considering the delicate situation through which the Arab nation is going and the deadlock of the Palestinian issue after the recent tragic events," the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement, cited by The AP.
Diplomats said Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali made personally the decision to call off the summit. MENA reported that ben Ali had refused to meet Arab foreign ministers who wanted to question him on his decision, which the news agency said had "surprised" them.
In its commentary, TAP - the Tunisian news agency - said "the Arabs missed another opportunity to appear before the world as an active regional grouping, capable of adapting to the changes surrounding it and of integrating within this crucial historical moment."
"Tunisia has underlined the necessity to emphasize the Arabs' commitment to the values of tolerance and concord and to the principle of dialogue among civilizations, their total rejection of extremism, fanaticism, violence and terrorism, and their determination to stand against these phenomena."
"We are surprised as to the insistence of some countries on marginalizing these questions that are fundamental, crucial and important for the process of development, modernization and reform within our Arab societies." ... "It is surprising that we do not find in the draft...in its version before proposing the Tunisian amendment, any mention of the word 'democracy.' The absence of this word carries, in itself, significances that need no explanation," the Tunisian agency added.
In preliminary talks by Arab foreign ministers, Syria sought to block proposals for political reform and for endorsing Libya's move to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs, Arab diplomats said.
Syria also wanted to block a summit declaration advancing the 2002 Saudi initiative, they addded.
"The Syrians acted as if they want to turn the tables on the whole summit," one Arab diplomat said. On his part, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa said he regretted the postponement, adding President Bashar Assad had already been on his way to Tunisia.
A number of Arab leaders, including Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and six other heads of state had earlier decided to stay away from the summit. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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