Monday, May 2, 2011

Baghdad Arab Summit schedule to be decided

Sulaimaniyah, May 2 (AKnews) – Foreign ministers from Arab states are expected to meet next week to decide on a new schedule for the postponed Arab Summit in Baghdad as the Arab world is rocked by a wave of protests.
The last Arab Summit
As a result of the 'Arab spring' revolts some Arab states requested that the Summit - first scheduled for March 29 - be postponed until, at the latest, 15 May.

Another contributing factor to its delay was the pressure applied the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council that was angered when Iraq – which is a majority Shia country - roundly criticized the repression of protests in Bahrain by the minority Sunni rule.

This position was also criticized by Sunni Iraqi members of parliament.

A member of the parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, Rawaz Mahdi said: "Due to the current situation, it is unlikely that the Arab Summit in Baghdad will be held on time, therefore, Arab foreign ministers are expected to meet next week in Egypt to tackle the issue"

However, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told al-Hurrah TV last month that the summit will be held on 10 May.

The summit in Baghdad is viewed by some politicians as important to Iraq's reintegration into the Arab world after the US-led invasion that toppled Dictator Saddam Hussein. A successful summit is likely to help Iraq reassure its mainly Sunni neighbors - who view the rise of Shia majority with suspicion – that cooperation is possible.

Rawaz Mahdi, who is an MP in the Kurdish Block Coalition, said the absence of a number of Arab leaders due to internal unrest in their respective countries like Yemen, Syria and Libya, will be a blow to the summit and to Iraq.

The Iraqi government has announced it has made all the necessary preparations for the summit to be hosted in Baghdad and has allocated some US$50 million for the purpose. The US Embassy in Iraq has also expressed its support for the holding of the summit in Baghdad.

In the case that Arab leaders decide not to hold the meeting in Baghdad, Egypt and Qatar have been put forward as possible alternatives.

Iraq has hosted the Arab Summit twice before - in 1987 and 1992.

By Raber Y. Aziz, with contributions from Idris Abubakr . Edited by Patrick Smith (AKnews)

02/05/2011 13:30