Regional turmoil dominates Arab League summit in Kuwait | News | DW | 25.03.2014
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Regional turmoil dominates Arab League summit in Kuwait

Members of the Arab League have gathered in Kuwait City for the organization’s annual summit. The Syrian civil war and political turmoil in Egypt are to dominate the agenda for the one-day meeting.

In his opening remarks at the Arab League summit on Tuesday, Kuwait's sheikh called on the member nations to strive for more cooperation. This year's summit is taking place amid several crises across the Middle East, which threaten to destabilize the region.

"The dangers around us are enormous and we will not move towards joint Arab action without our unity and without casting aside our differences," Sheikh Sabah, the summit host, said in Kuwait City where he is hosting the event.

Not only has the Syrian civil war - now in its third year - threatened security in its neighboring countries, but political disputes surrounding the role of Islamists across Arab League nations also threaten to cause a deep rift among the allies.

This month, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in protest of the country's support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The interim government in Cairo banned the Islamist party last year following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. The judiciary is currently pursuing tough legal action against the Islamist party's members linked to violence last summer.

Israel's negotiations for a peace-deal framework with Palestinian leadership is also expected to be discussed on Tuesday.

Syrian opposition eyes seat

The leader of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Ahmed Jarba, called for more Arab League support on Tuesday, first by giving it Syria's Arab League seat and control over its embassies.

"Leaving Syria's seat empty sends a message to [President Bashar] al-Assad…the seat is waiting for you once the battle is settled," Jarba told the opening session. The umbrella group of Syrian opposition groups had been promised a seat last year. However, it must still fulfil legal requirements in order to win final approval from the Arab League.

Opponents of Syrian President al-Assad have been calling for his resignation. The two sides have been locked in clashes for three years, with no end in sight. The imbalance in military might - with the Assad regime having not only a well-equipped military, but also support from Iran- has left rebel groups begging for international help. The US and Britain suspended their non-lethal aid late last year after evidence of a stronger Islamist presence within rebel factions in northern Syria.

Jarba asked the Arab League nations to "pressure the international community to commit to its promises to supply sophisticated weapons to our revolutionaries" and to provide greater humanitarian aid to the embattled country's refugees.

The SNC leader received backing from Saudi Arabia's crown prince, whose country has been the biggest backer of anti-Assad forces.

"The legitimate Syrian resistance has been betrayed by the international community and left as easy prey to tyrant forces," Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz said on Tuesday. "This must be sorted out... in order to send a strong message to the international community so that it will change its attitude towards Syria."

Many Western leaders have expressed their support of the Syrian National Coalition, condemning the Assad regime for its use of deadly force against civilians and refusal to answer to the will of the people. However, some among them remain wary of the role of Islamist extremists in the Syrian opposition and have, for that reason, been cautious about their legal recognition of the coalition.

kms/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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