Syria: The Arab Summit

So, another Arab summit comes and goes. This time it was the all awaited Damascus summit. As you can see, this roundup is almost a week late, simply because I couldn't find anyone who's actually writing about the summit – which tells you exactly how little people have come to expect from these annual gatherings.

Of course, as with every Arab summit, this year has its own drama – who will attend? Given all the bickering and tension between Syria on one side, and the Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian triangle on the other, people were expecting a showdown. Differences over Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Syria's alliance with Iran has driven the relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia into an all time low, and even for a time, threatened to thwart the whole Arab Summit.

Rime Allaf gives us a wonderful wrap up of the situation before the summit:

Syria is anxious to avoid a humiliating no-show from the big names. Repeatedly trying, and repeatedly failing, to secure Saudi approval for a visit by Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to deliver the official summit invitation, Syria finally resigned itself to send it at a much lower level, illustrating the depth of the gulf between Riyadh and Damascus. It will not have helped, of course, that Lebanon was the last of 22 countries to be invited to the summit, in a manner defying protocol and typical of Syrian “diplomacy”: handed to a resigned minister of the Lebanese cabinet by an official of the Syrian Foreign Ministry, it wasn't even signed by the host of the event, but by the Syrian Prime Minister.

The summit also meant a great deal of logistic work, Damascus with its old infrastructure needed an emergency face-lift, the preparations reached some extreme levels with closing down the airport and some parts of the capital. Sasa tells us about that.

And this morning, the airport closed (yes, that's right, it closed – shut down until next week – no civilian flights in or out of Damascus International Airport, and no-one is allowed to fly over Syria's capital). That was only announced a couple of days ago – unless you're a Syrianair passenger, in which case, it still hasn't been announced!. That didn't even happen during the Iraq War.

And so, the long awaited summit took place, but not without Lebanon boycotting it. The results of the summit?
The final statement of the summit, was called the “Damascus Declaration”. Almarfaa blog, wonders, is it a coincidence that the name “Damascus Declaration” has thus far been associated with the biggest opposition umbrella group?

وهي حركة – إن كانت مقصودة وأتوقع انها كذلك – تهدف إلى محاولة إخفاء وتهميش (إعلان دمشق) المعارض للنظام وتخفيف تأثيره الإعلامي بعد أن تم تخفيف تأثيره السياسي من خلال الاعتقالات لجميع قياداته وأعضاءه في أسلوب قمعي متخلف ينم عن حقد دفين لأي حركة معارضة مهما كانت سلمية !
هناك فرق كبير بين (إعلان دمشق) المعارض .. و(إعلان دمشق) التابع للقمة العربية !

This is a move -if it was intentional, and I think it was- that aims to hide and marginalize the “Damascus Declaration” that is opposed to the regime, and to weaken its effect on the media, after it has weakened its political effect with the arrest of all its leaders, in a repressive manner that only reflects deep hatred against any opposition movement, no matter how peaceful it is!
There is a big difference between the Opposition's “Damascus Declaration”, and the Arab summit's “Damascus Declaration”

As for attendance, Ibrahim Hamidi sums it up on Joshua Landis’ blog,

The final answer is 11.

The countries whose Heads of State came were: Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Kozzor
al kamar, Palestine, Libya,

Heads of State who never attend Arab summits: Oman, Morocco

Heads of State who declined to attend: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain.

Boycott: Lebanon.

Yes, yes. Another year, another summit.

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