x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Syrian opposition leader's resignation at last minute an embarrassment for Arab Summit

At the Arab Summit that begins in Doha today, all eyes will be on Syria's seat. Other topics include: Arab expectations, situation in Egypt

As the Arab Summit kicks off in Doha today, the spotlight will be turned on Syria's seat. Any other deliberations and decisions will all be conventional, insignificant and routine. It will be the same old information, the same old press conference, the same old questions and the same old crowd, said Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi.

What distinguishes this summit from previous similar summits and meetings is that it will attempt to set a precedent by giving a state's seat to an opposition movement.

On inauguration day, the media will be focusing on Syria's seat and the flag shown before it. Syria's membership of the Arab League has been suspended since November 2011 over its government's failure to end the bloodshed - a move that was intended to increase pressure on president Bashar Al Assad.

Almost one-and-a-half years later, the war is still raging and Mr Al Assad remains in power. However, the opposition has managed to form a coalition that is gaining recognition worldwide as Syria's real representatives, and it was announced that they will be taking the country's vacant seat at this summit.

However, in a sudden turn of events just 48 hours before the summit convened, Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib, the leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition resigned, citing a lack of support.

His move threw the opposition and the host state into disarray. Qatar led an intensive campaign to persuade him to withdraw his resignation and save the summit.

Yesterday, Sheikh Al Khatib announced on his Facebook page that he would be addressing the Arab League meeting in the name of the Syrian people despite his resignation.

"Sheikh Al Khatib took his time to tender his resignation, which was decided a few weeks ago as a result of the slur campaign he withstood following his initiative to hold a dialogue with the Assad regime to prevent more bloodshed," said the Al Quds Al Arabi writer.

It is clear that Sheikh Al Khatib is a rookie in the world of politics. In the view of his fellow opposition members and the international sponsors of the opposition, he miscalculated his options when he rejected a US decision to list Jabhat Al Nusra as a terrorist group and then, once again when he refused to take part, in the last Friends of Syria meeting in Paris.

Following his "sins", opposition supporters sought to find a more convenient and "obedient" alternative.

Hence, the coalition met in Istanbul last Monday and elected Ghassan Hitto as prime minister.

"That was the last straw for Sheikh Al Khatib," the writer said.

Arab citizens expect a lot from meeting

High stakes will be at play at the Arab Summit as the Arab world faces an unprecedentedly critical situation that portends more chaos and sectarianism, editorialised the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej yesterday.

Arab citizens are looking forward to the summit in these critical times, as they watch a long-sought Spring turn into an abyss that is pulling down thousands of victims, the paper noted.

The Arab people are concerned about Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, mourning an Iraq hit by sectarian strife and corruption, and agonising over the Syrian tragedy, where the "fires of madness" continue to wreak havoc, with a spillover into neighbouring countries, the paper went on.

Against this dire backdrop, citizens hope to see an end to the painful status quo, and want to stop the bloodletting and mayhem, particularly in Syria.

The Arab people look forward to a new discourse and new methods being employed, because there is no point in calling an an end to bloodshed while hesitating in acting towards that end.

Ready-made, trite decisions are not what people await from the Arab leaders; they want them to prioritise a halt to violence, and to avoid reckless policies that will only aggravate the continuing tragedy that is taking its toll on Arab people and their resources.

The Arab people expect the summit to ease the tension, and cease the infighting, division and polarity, the editorial said.

Is Egypt heading for an explosion?

The situation in Egypt is going from bad to worse, as the conflict between the government and the opposition shows no sign of abating, wrote Imad Eddine Adeeb in the London-based paper Asharq Al Awsat yesterday.

The dramatic developments unfolding near the Muslim Brotherhood's office in Cairo reflect the scary modus operandi adopted by both parties.

Each of the political parties has swallowed the lethal bait for any political organisation: intransigence, plotting and the quest to vanquish rivals by all means and at any costs, the writer noted.

This attitude does not promise a final solution to the crisis. Egypt today demands all parties to exercise self-restraint and to cease plotting against political rivals to get Egypt on track and end the stalemate that threatens to bring down the state institutions.

What is curious about the Egyptian case is that, whenever one imagines that the crisis has reached the bottom and it is the time to save the situation, a new, more threatening challenge pops up, the writer observed.

The big question is: are Egyptians on the brink of an explosion that will shatter their nation? Or are they facing a final escalation prior to serious negotiation between the government and the opposition to find common ground? Time will tell.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk