The Recent Arab Summit in Algeria
- updated: February 2, 2023
The international conflict in Syria reflected itself in the different positions of the member states of the Arab League, as they in turn reflected their different interests and alliances.
The efforts of some Arab countries have so far failed to re-introduce the Syrian regime to the Arab League, although some of them have been rushing to restore relations with Assad. Syrian territory remains the scene of international conflict, and there are still some obstacles ahead of such a move, as the policies of the United States and the European Union towards the Syrian regime still link lifting sanctions and reconstruction with the start of the political transition.
The conflicting agendas of the Arab states themselves may be one factor behind this because Arab League resolutions are taken unanimously. Despite the tireless efforts made by Algeria, the president of the 2022 summit, and despite the Russian support, the attempt to re-instate the Syrian regime failed due to the divisions over the Syrian file. Algeria was also keen on making this summit a success, and thus compromised by including the flag of the regime in the summit, despite the fact that the regime was not invited.
This summit, which was held in Algiers on the first of November 2022, with the motto “Reunification”, resulted in a general emphasis on the role of the Arab League in strengthening relations between its members in order to solve problems and prevent crises in peaceful ways.
As far as Syria is concerned, the final statement called on Arab countries to play a collective leading role to contribute to the political solution to the Syrian crisis, and to address its political, security, humanitarian and economic problems, in a way that guarantees Syria’s unity and sovereignty, achieves the aspirations of its people, and restores its regional and international status. This is in line with resolution 2254 and the declared positions of international stakeholders. At the same time, the statement recognizes the Arab League’s inability to contain the Syrian issue unilaterally in the presence of international and regional parties, in addition to the need for a unified Arab stance, which can become a considerable force on the international and regional levels, and would contribute to resolving the conflict.
It is necessary here to read events against the background of the serious Iranian threat to the countries of the region in general. Some Arab countries have taken steps to normalize relations with Israel, and signed agreements that will open the door wide for economic cooperation and coordination, if the normalization process is completed with the remaining countries. Such a development will have consequences for Syria, raising questions about the Syrian Golan Heights.
Perhaps the summit’s motto of “reunification” applies not only to the two sides of the Palestinian people, but also to Israel’s Arab neighbors, in the sense of leading them towards normalization, in line with the wishes of international players, through the same international mediators and with Arab tools.
Certainly, international and regional changes play an important role in forming the decisions of the Arab League, and can be used as a basis to build on, within the current atmosphere of dispute between Arab countries and their conflicting agendas.
The involvement of international and regional powers which are active in the Syrian file, in a negotiating track, would guarantee their interests. This does not exclude Arab countries, especially after the Russian war on Ukraine, which deepened international conflicts, and due to the American policy of trying to withdraw the Syrian file from Russia. All of this contributed to a state of stagnation in the Syrian crisis. Russia’s war created great havoc internationally and Syria remains hostage to conflicts and a hotbed for settling international scores.
Global crises also play a negative role affecting Arab policies. International alliances and interests are a major detriment to the performance of the Arab League and its ability to make decisions.
The Arab League’s positions on the Syrian file have varied over the past decade. The League opened the door wide for the internationalization of the Syrian crisis at the 2011 summit by suspending Syria’s membership until the regime responded to the Arab initiative at the time. Later, it adopted the six points of the Geneva Communiqué.
The League’s support of the Syrian Revolution has helped the formation of international resolutions, especially those issued by the United Nations, starting with the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 to resolutions 2118 and 2254.
At the 2012 Baghdad summit, there was a call for a dialogue between the regime and the opposition, demanding the immediate implementation of the plan of the UN special envoy and the Arab League in Syria. The summit called on the Syrian opposition to unite in order to live up to the challenge, and demanded that the Syrian government stop the violence.
The 2013 Qatar summit culminated in the actual presence of the Syrian Opposition Coalition in Syria’s seat at the summit with the flag of Syria’s independence, despite reservations from some Arab countries.
The international indifference began to dominate and it negatively affected the 2014 Kuwait summit, following the deal with the regime to hand over its chemical weapons. Against the backdrop of wavering international positions on Syria, the summit focused on other regional crises and the Palestinian issue.
The Sharm el-Sheikh summit in 2015 stopped at demanding that the UN Security Council do its duty in adopting a joint action plan that guarantees the achievement of a political solution in Syria, in accordance with the Geneva Communiqué. At the time, Arab countries realized that their efforts were useless, in light of the vacuum created by Obama’s policies, which was filled quickly by Russia. Focus was shifted to combatting terrorism as a priority, turning a blind eye to the Assad regime.
Syria was completely absent from all the subsequent summits.
The Syrian opposition, represented by the National Coalition, has played a negative role, by relying on the military solution as a strategic option, rather than stressing that the political solution is the only option. It lost its seat in the Arab League, and was abandoned by international powers, against the background of Islamization and militarization. However, the Syrian opposition cannot be held fully responsible for the current state of affairs. The tug-of-war of international, Arab and regional interests has led to a loss of interest in Syria.
Due to the current Syrian, regional and international factors, and due to the complex regional and international relations of Arab countries, the Arab League has become unable to play an effective and positive role in the Syrian file. Some Arab countries, under Russian pressure, are counting on a positive role for the regime in resolving the crisis in Syria, and the region.
The SWPM believes that this is nothing but a vicious circle. As long as Syria, geographically and politically, is being fought over by regional and international powers, it will be difficult to bring the regime to the negotiating table.
What is required of the Arab League today is to remove itself from the international and regional tug-of-war and resolve the crisis by utilizing its relations with different Syrian parties, especially the Syrian regime, and to use its regional and international relations to push for a comprehensive political solution, in accordance with Resolution 2254.
The Political Committee of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement.