King Abdullah calls for emergency Muslim summit
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia yesterday called an emergency summit of Muslim nations to address what his foreign minister described as the divisions and provocations that threaten them.
The meeting next month is an effort to unify Muslims during "this delicate time as the Muslim world faces dangers of fragmentation and sedition", the Saudi foreign minister Saud Al Faisal said.
The proposed date for the summit - August 14-15 - is just before the 27th night of Ramadan, the day the Quran was revealed to the Prophet.
No further details were disclosed about the meeting, but the announcement in Riyadh coincides with a sharp escalation of bloodshed in Syria and the success of Islamist movements and political parties elsewhere in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia.
Abdullah Al Shammri, a political analyst and columnist for the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Yaum, described the king's move as an example of "Islamic diplomacy" that represents an effort by the kingdom to reassert its preeminence amid the fast-paced changes that have rocked the Arab world in the past 20 months.
"Saudi Arabia is facing a moment when everybody in Arab world is getting more Islamist. Saudi Arabia is thinking, 'We shouldn't lose this chance. It is coming to our door and our house, so we should open the door. Otherwise, we will give Turkey or Iran a chance.'"
Speculation that the planned summit is also linked to events in Syria was reinforced by another announcement from King Abdullah yesterday. He ordered the start today of a national fund-raising campaign "to support our brothers in Syria".
After publicly urging the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad this year to step aside for the sake of the Syria, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are believed to be supplying funds to the Free Syrian Army, the rebel organisation fighting to overthrow him.
With the climbing human toll - more than 19,100 Syrians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the 17-month uprising, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - there are worries of a repeat of the kind of sectarian violence that beset Iraq after the US invasion in 2003.
A refugee crisis is looming, too. Melissa Flemming, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said on Friday that 30,000 Syrians had arrived in Lebanon in the previous 48 hours, bringing to more than 120,000 the number of Syrians who have fled their country.
The UN says it has received 21 per cent of the $180 million (Dh661m) needed to supply adequate aid to Syria. The United States is the largest donor so far, followed by Canada and the Netherlands.
A Beirut-based official for UNHCR said Saudi Arabia had provided some assistance for health services for fleeing refugees, but that Arabian Gulf aid had been "progressively decreasing". Qatar has provided $500,000 for secondary health care for Syrian refugees in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, according to UNHCR's latest public field report.
Separately, foreign ministers of the Arab League attended an emergency meeting in Doha yesterday to discuss the situation in Syria.
The head of the Arab League, Nabil El Arabi, warned that "violence leads to more violence" and called on the Syrian government to respect the will of the country's people.
Updated: July 23, 2012 04:00 AM