Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Summits: Divisions in Arab World Played Out in Response to Gaza

Inter Press Service, January 27, 2009 - Despite declarations of Arab unity at a recent economic summit, Egyptian commentators say that fundamental differences between rival Arab camps - especially over the issue of Palestine - are far from over.

"The deep divisions currently plaguing the Arab world cannot be solved over the course of an official state luncheon," Mohamed Abu Al-Hadid, political analyst and chairman of the board of the state-owned Dar Al-Tahrir publishing house wrote in official daily Al-Gomhouriya Thursday (Jan. 22).

On Jan. 16, leaders and representatives of 12 Arab League (AL) member states attended a meeting in Doha, Qatar to discuss the carnage then taking place in the Gaza Strip through Israel's military campaign. The meeting followed repeated calls by Qatar for an emergency AL summit in hope of forging a common Arab stance against ongoing Israeli aggression.

Regional heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia, however, declined to attend. Instead, they announced their intention to discuss the crisis at a scheduled Arab economic summit in Kuwait three days later.

The move highlighted the longstanding divide among AL members, which pits Washington's "moderate" Arab allies - including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - against those opposed to U.S. policy in the region.

The differences between the two blocs are defined largely by their respective positions on the Israel-Palestine conflict. While the former grouping backs U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, the latter supports resistance against Israel led by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas....

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