Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Another Arab Tea Party Ends

Analysis by Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO, Apr 1 (IPS) - The 20th Arab League summit, convened earlier this week in the Syrian capital Damascus, drew relatively few heads of state, with both Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz choosing to stay at home. According to local commentators, the low level of diplomatic representation served to show up Syria's isolation within the otherwise U.S.-dominated Arab fold.

"Cairo and Riyadh -- two main agents of U.S. policy in the region -- sent very low-level delegates with the aim of further isolating Damascus," Abdel-Halim Kandil, former editor-in-chief of opposition weekly al-Karama, told IPS......

But local commentators say the event yielded little in the way of tangible results.

"The summit was nothing more than a formal tea party, lacking any serious discussion," said Kandil. "Regardless of the relative levels of participation, this summit -- like all AL summits within the last ten years -- was of little practical value."

He went on to note that Egypt's relations with Syria -- whatever the outcome in Lebanon -- would continue to be dictated by decision-makers in Washington.

"When it comes to Syria, Cairo will carry on following U.S. policy," Kandil said. "So any improvement in Egypt-Syria relations will depend on Washington's own relations with Damascus." "

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