With reporting from Riham Sheble
Regional leaders discussed all the usual subjects during the opening session of the Arab League Summit in Kuwait today, including the conflicts in Syria and Palestine.
But one topic that will likely remain off the official agenda is the growing tensions between Qatar and three of its Gulf neighbors: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.
The trio withdrew their ambassadors from Doha earlier this month, apparently to show disapproval of Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Asked about whether the diplomatic row would be discussed, Khaled al Jarallah, Kuwaiti undersecretary for foreign affairs, told reporters, as quoted by Reuters: “Gulf reconciliation, and Gulf issues are something for inside the Gulf house.”
The lack of public discussion disappointed some Khaleejis, who have been discussing the meet under the hashtag #قمة_الكويت (Kuwait Summit):
رغم الابتسامات .. القمة العربية تفشل فى حل الخلاف الخليجى مع قطر #قمة_الكويت #السعودية #الرياض http://t.co/VGrQ20C5ZX pic.twitter.com/szaIBXBOGV
— جريدة الجون (@aljonenews) March 25, 2014
Translation: Despite the (empty) smiles, the Arab summit fails in resolving the Gulf dispute with Qatar.
However, the tensions and a need for unity were alluded to in a number of speeches today, including from the emirs of both Qatar and Kuwait.
According to QNA, in his address this morning, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani urged Arab countries to act on a resolution passed during last year’s Arab Summit in Qatar to establish a $1 billion fund to assist Palestinians in fighting Israel’s creeping annexation of Jerusalem. Qatar has pledged a quarter of that amount.
The Emir also turned his attention to the conflict in Egypt, emphasizing dialogue (presumably over government crackdowns):
“We emphasize the fraternal relationship that brings us together in Egypt, the big sister for which we wish security, political stability and welfare aspired by its people, hoping meantime that would be achieved through overall political society dialogue.”
Finally, he concluded by quoted Prophet Muhammad as saying:
” ‘Your best leaders are those whom you love and they love you, and you pray for them, and they pray for you, and the most wicked ones are those whom you hate and they hate you, and you curse them and they curse you.’
Oh Allah, we pray to you to make us among those beloved by their peoples, and with whom we reciprocate the same feelings.”
Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah spoke more generally about unity, saying:
“The dangers around us are enormous and we will not move towards joint Arab action without our unity and without casting aside our differences.”
The Gulf rift was one of many stumbling blocks leaders expected to encounter when trying to reach a consensus on broader issues, such as whether to grant a coalition of Syrian opposition groups a seat at the Arab League table, and how to tackle the question of thawing Iran-US relations.
According to Kuwait’s news agency KUNA, Arab leaders will convene in a closed-door session tomorrow to approve draft resolutions, and then will publicly announce the Kuwait Declaration.
Here’s the full text of Sheikh Tamim’s speech:
Note: One tweet quoted in the story has been removed because it belongs to an account that makes baseless attacks.