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Calls for reform and better coordination thwarted by key policy differences between member states
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune's hopes of resolving what he called the 'divergences and disagreements' at the Arab summit in Algiers on1-2 November were disappointed but he secured a strong turn out of North African presidents including Egypt's Abdel Fattah el Sisi and Tunisia's Kaïs Saïed. Somalia's new President Hassan Sheikh Mohammed also attended.
Morocco's King Mohammed VI didn't attend but sent his foreign minister Nasser Bourita instead. Saudi Arabia's King Salman, and de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were the other most high-profile non-attendees.
Tebboune had planned to use the summit to try to reaffirm support for Palestine in response to the Abraham Accords, the series of normalisation agreements between Arab countries and Israel including Morocco and Sudan (Dispatches, 21/9/22, A league of quarrelling neighbours).
In October, Tebboune hosted talks between the rival Fatah party, whose Palestinian Authority rules parts of the occupied West Bank, and the militant Hamas group, which has control of the Gaza Strip, in a bid to reconcile the two sides.
'I look forward to the establishment of an Arab contact and coordination group during this summit in order to support the Palestinian cause, and Algeria is fully prepared to transfer this vital request to the United Nations,' Tebboune said at the summit.
However, while the final summit communiqué restated previous commitments calling for an independent Palestinian state, full membership for the Palestinian Authority at the UN, and an international conference to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, little further momentum was generated.
Instead, the summit was dominated by a resolution proposed by Bourita condemning Iran's destabilising acts in the Gulf and Western Sahara, which Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra tried and failed to block (AC Vol 63 No 17, Rabat and Algiers cross swords over UN role).
Recent reports, citing officials from the Polisario Front in Western Sahara, have indicated that Polisario has received Iranian drones.
Elsewhere, the communiqué took a neutral posture toward the Russia-Ukraine war, despite the widespread disruptions to supply chains and shortages of grain and wheat caused by the conflict. Algeria, which imports much of its military hardware from Russia, has had close ties to Moscow since independence from France in 1962 and has abstained on both resolutions on the Ukraine war at the UN this year. But Tebboune was unable to persuade fellow leaders to readmit Syria to the Arab League, as Moscow had wanted.
None of the attendees at the summit offered any diplomatic or material support to Ukraine. Indirectly, the war has hugely boosted Morocco's fertiliser export industry.
Behind the formal agenda, delegates to the summit discussed ways to reorganise the grain trade in the North African and Middle East region as well as maximised advantage from higher demand for oil and gas triggered by Moscow's war on Ukraine.
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