Disputes plague Arab Economic and Development Summit in Beirut

Disputes plague Arab Economic and Development Summit in Beirut

Representatives of Arab League countries will gather in Beirut today for the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit. On the

arab economic social development summit beirut

Photo: SPA

Representatives of Arab League countries will gather in Beirut today for the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit.

On the agenda will be potential improvements to the Greater Arab Free Trade Area agreement and ways to bolster the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, which has seen its annual donations cut from $365 million in 2017 to $65 million last year after the US withdrew its funding.

Little headway is likely to be made on these issues, as it is something of a miracle that the summit is even occurring. With the League torn over whether or not to reinstate Syria, Qatar and Bahrain, for and against, respectively, have each pulled their representatives.  Libya is boycotting the event due to a spat with Lebanon’s Amal Movement over the disappearance of a cleric four decades ago.

The Syria issue will only grow more pressing as Bashar al-Assad restores his hold on power, which could cause tensions and disunity at the Arab League’s main summit in Tunisia in March. A fractured Arab League would play into the hands of Iran as it grapples for regional influence against the group’s primary powerbroker, Saudi Arabia.

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