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The Beirut summit facing miscarriage

Jan 19,2019 - Last updated at Jan 19,2019

The Arab economic summit in Beirut is off to a disappointing start because only a very few Arab heads of state are projected to attend the pan-Arab meeting.

The suspected poor showing of Arab leaders can be attributed to several reasons, among which could be the timing of the summit, as it comes at only few months before the Arab summit in Tunis in March.

It is generally difficult to separate economic policies and goals in all their dimensions from political ones, and this is even more so in the Arab world, where everything is politicised. Economic cooperation between Arab states is simply inseparable from political relations between them. Politics in the Arab world is normally the horse and all other inter-Arab relations are the carriage, pure and simple.

Since the upcoming Arab summit is expected to deal first and foremost with inter-Arab political relations and regional flashpoints, it would make more sense to discuss these relations first, before dwelling on follow up relations.

Secondly, Lebanon remains without a government till now, thus depriving any pan-Arab meeting of the necessary environment for holding any kind of pan-Arab conference at the head of state level at this point in time.

Thirdly, and perhaps the most fundamental obstacle facing the Beirut summit, is the nature of the issues that are on the agenda of the summit. Discussing closer economic relations among Arab states, raising the standard of living among Arab peoples, combating poverty and unemployment in Arab countries, promoting free trade among the Arab states, establishing joint Arab ventures, ending discrimination against women and enhancing child protection in all its forms are all technical issues that Arab leaders would not be able to digest on their own in a few meetings.

It would have been the perfect order of things to hold the Beirut meeting at the prime minister level and then have them submit their findings and recommendations to an Arab summit for endorsement. True, Lebanon has invested a lot to hold the summit and made painstaking preparations for it, yet the whole idea of holding this kind of technical conference at this juncture in time appears premature. Lebanon should, nevertheless, be thanked for its efforts and compensated for its expenditures.

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