Arab leaders hunker down in tent for yearly regional summit

| July 27, 2016
This street scene in Nouakchott, Mauritania serves as a backdrop for the Arab summit recently held in that country.

This street scene in Nouakchott, Mauritania serves as a backdrop for the Arab summit recently held in that country.

(GIN)—Forgoing the usual four and five-star hotels, Arab leaders gathered this week in a large tent in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott for the 27th Arab League Summit. Regional crises and hot wars were expected to dominate the agenda.

“It is good to get Mauritania back into the Arab political map,” British-Lebanese journalist and  media consultant Youssef Khazem told Al Arabiya English. “By allowing Mauritania to host, it is giving new spirit to the Arab League,” he said.

But, a low turnout at the summit, with at least 12 leaders absent, led some to call it the “least effective meeting ever.”

The meeting focused on “fighting terrorism as the top priority” in the Arab world today.

Sherif Ismail, Egypt’s prime minister, one of the first leaders to speak, blamed foreign intervention in the region for the rise of groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and for the radicalization of young people.

Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, addressed the conflict in Syria, saying there could be no solution while President Bashar al-Assad was still in power.

A new French initiative aimed at relaunching Israeli-Palestinian talks and holding an international conference for peace by year end received Arab support.  But the initiative is unpopular in Israel and the U.S.

Leaders took aim at what they said was terrorism carried out in the name of Islam and called for an “Arab strategy” to find solutions.

The leaders agreed to hold next year’s summit in Yemen, despite the ongoing civil war. African countries belonging to the group include Egypt, Tunisia, Somalia, Morocco, Sudan, Mauritania, Djibouti, Libya and Algeria with Eritrea serving as an observer state.

By many accounts Mauritania, known as the land of a million poets, is one of the poorest and smallest Arab nations. It has a population of 3.98 million, a GDP of $1,068 and a life expectancy of 57 years for men and 61 years for women. But, hosting the Arab League summit is expected to provide a much-needed boost for the country both politically and economically, says Khazem.

To meet the expected demand of the regional summit, a new airport was inaugurated just prior to the summit. It has a capacity of two million passengers per year and is able to accommodate large aircraft such as the Airbus 380 and Boeing 780.

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Category: Africa Briefs

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