The Arab states summit was opened Saturday noon in the Tunisian capital, amid low expectations of tangible success regarding a number of issues, mainly the situation in both Palestine and Iraq.
The summit was marred yet again by the absence of top leaders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen and Sudan, who have sent heads of government or other high-level officials in their place.
The summit had a stormy start after Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi walked out of it about half an hour after it was opened. He later attacked peace initiatives backed by Arab leaders, saying any solution to the Palestinian refugee problem must include giving refugees back the land they lost to Israel in 1948 and 1967 wars.
He also told a press conference he would not take part in the Arab summit at a time when “two Arab presidents – Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein – are in prison”.
On his part, Yasser Arafat, appealed in a satellite linkup from the West Bank for international protection for his people against Israeli military actions.
Arafat also urged the leaders to foster international pressure for a peace settlement and protection for the Palestinians. "I proclaim here before you and the world our commitment to a peace of the brave," said Arafat.
He stated only negotiations based on the internationally drafted roadmap for Palestinian-Israeli peace would achieve security for both Israel and the Palestinians. Arafat called for an "Arab mechanism and an international force to monitor" and apply the roadmap and protect the Palestinian people.
Arab Foreign Ministers met Friday night in Tunisia to formulate the final communiqué of the summit, which was called off by the Tunisian government almost two months ago, on the grounds that some Arab governments obstructed reform.
The two-day summit was likely to include "firm condemnation" of the Israeli military aggression on Rafah City, demanding implementation of the latest UN Security Council’s resolution that calls Israel to end “acts of violence”, and abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention for protecting civilians.
An official Arab source told AFP that the Arab Foreign Ministers had agreed on a separate agenda for Rafah, yet it was unlikely to be included in the final communiqué, making clear that such agenda was complementary to the Security Council’s resolution adopted recently in that regard.
Another official reportedly said that the Arab leaders would condemn, for the first time, the attacks on both Palestinian and Israeli civilians alike.
The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported that the Arab leaders would denounce all forms of Israeli military actions in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories. They would also condemn the Israeli attacks that target Palestinian leaders.
As for the sanctions on Syria, declared by Washington recently, Arab sources reported that the Arab Ministers adopted a balanced resolution, backing Syria's bulwark of the said sanctions and calling on the international community to promote dialogue between Damascus and Washington.
As for as the proposals on reforms that have been raised, the sources pointed out that it has been decided to replace the word “reform” with “development or upgrading”, as Syria deemed that the term "reform" has been brought in by the West and that Arabs are those concerned with development.
The Arab leaders started their summit with an opening session, followed by a closed session in the afternoon. The closing session will be held Sunday, where the final communiqué would be issued.
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )