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Arab League Summit Adopts Jeddah Declaration, Amidst Surprise Attendee Zelenskyy and return of Assad At the recent Arab League Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad was warmly welcomed back after being cut off from most of the Arab community for over ten years. He was met with open arms by leaders who were once against him, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, in an unexpected move, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also attended the summit before he headed to the G7 in Japan. 

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Jeddah: The 32nd Arab League Summit concluded in the Saudi city of Jeddah by adopting the Jeddah Declaration, which calls for Arab unity to solve regional issues, state media reported on Friday.

The declaration welcomed Syria’s readmission to the Arab League (AL), vowing to intensify pan-Arab efforts to help Syria tackle its crisis.

It underlined the Arab Peace Initiative to solve the Palestinian issues, urged for the de-escalation of tensions in Sudan, called for the election of a new Lebanese President and the required reforms to lift Lebanon out of its crisis, and supported initiatives to promote security and stability in Yemen.

The declaration rejected foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries and “categorically reject all support for the formation of armed groups and militias outside the scope of state institutions”.

At a press conference to brief on the summit, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said that the Jeddah Declaration will reinforce joint Arab work.

The Minister affirmed that the Palestinian cause remains the Arab’s pivotal cause, expressed hope that Syria’s return to the Arab fold would contribute to ending the Syrian crisis, and called on the Sudanese warring parties to resort to dialogue to put an end to the current armed clashes.

AL Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit also highlighted the success of the Jeddah summit in achieving its goal, expressing hope that the summit would be a beginning for the Arab countries to grasp their fate in their own hands.

The 32nd Arab League Summit kicked off in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Friday with the participation of Arab leaders to discuss regional and global issues that are crucial to the region’s stability.

This was the first Arab summit since the signing of the Abraham Accords. However, this topic was not discussed since the Arab League has historically given the Palestinians special status to participate in its deliberations.

Although several of its members over the years have normalised relations with Israel, the Arab League continues to uphold the Palestinian cause as one of its most important missions. Palestinians have full membership in the bloc, despite not having an independent state.

Dr. Yasmine Hasnaoui, a political science professor at a university in Kuwait,  believes that the Abraham Accords only serve to foment divisions between some Arab states.

While Israeli media consider that Syria’s participation in the Arab Summit in Jeddah is undoubtedly “a massive victory for Syria and its leader.”

According the media, “it is more correct to say that the Arab League has returned to Syria, not the other way around.”

Israeli channel Kan’s Arab Affairs Correspondent, Roi Kais, tweeted a video showing MBS receiving Al-Assad and embarrassing warmly before the Arab League Summit in Jeddah, commenting, “The picture of Assad’s victory.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended the summit for the first time since his country was suspended from the Arab League after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Syrian President Bashar Assad addressed a gathering of Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia on Friday, calling it a “historic opportunity.”

In his address at 32nd Arab League Summit, Assad called for “Arab solidarity to achieve peace, development, and flourishing in our region instead of war and destruction.” He said that Arab countries should reject “external interference” in their affairs.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad was warmly welcomed back after being cut off from most of the Arab community for over twelve years. He was met with open arms by leaders who were once against him, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a speech he was “pleased to welcome” Assad to the summit and that he hoped for “stability” in Syria.

Assad was officially invited to the summit in the western Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah last week.

Assad’s return to the league marks a major symbolic victory for Damascus as it moves to normalize ties with countries in the region again.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who is the de facto ruler of the kingdom, hugged al-Assad before their official picture was taken ahead of the start of the meeting.

MBS said he hoped Syria’s “return to the Arab League leads to the end of its crisis”.

However, Gulf leaders attending the summit was Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Sheikh Tamim left Jeddah after leading his country’s delegation, according to a statement by Qatar’s Emiri Diwan distributed to media as al-Assad was speaking, and did not make his own address.

“I would like to loudly welcome Syria back to its seat among its brothers,” Algerian Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane said in the opening speech of the summit.

Syria’s Arab League membership was revoked after al-Assad ordered a crackdown on protesters in March 2011 that spiralled the country into a war, which has since killed nearly half a million people and displaced another 23 million.

While the leaders from the 22-member league gathered in Jeddah, the conflict in Sudan was also on top of agenda beside Palestine, Syrian president’s participation and Zelenskyy’s surprised visit. 

However, Sudan’s military leader was not expected to attend, though one of his Cabinet officials will. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan is leading the army in a fight against his former deputy, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who leads a band of militia forces.

Read the Article: “Sudan Matters to Whole Africa and Arab”

But, Zelenskyy arrival in Jeddah made everyone surprised. In an unexpected move, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the summit before he headed to the G7 in Japan. It was not known until he tweeted and landed in Jeddah.

Zelenskyy’s surprise visit was his first to the Middle East since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, giving the Ukrainian leader an opportunity to address leaders of a region who have been far less united in their support of Kyiv than staunch Western allies.

While addressing the summit in Jeddah, Zelenskyy accused some Arab leaders of ignoring the horrors of Russia’s war on his country.

“Unfortunately, there are some in the world and here, among you, who turn a blind eye to those cages and illegal annexations,” he told summit attendees, urging them to “take an honest look” at the war.

Listening the Zelenskyy accusation, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince signaled his readiness to mediate between the two nations.

Despite the mounting pressure from the West on Gulf oil producers to isolate Russia, the Gulf states have attempted to maintain neutrality in the Ukrainian conflict. Russia, like these states, is a member of OPEC+.

In the summit, Algerian Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane handed over the rotating presidency of the Arab League to Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

-Dr. M Shahid Siddiqui (PhD), Follow via Twitter @shahidsiddiqui

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