On the eve of the Arab Summit in Riyadh.. A new TRENDS’ Study: The Arab Region is experiencing an historic turning point in inter-Arab Relations
On the eve of the 32nd Arab summit, expected to be held in Saudi Arabia on May 19, TRENDS Research and Advisory released a new study entitled: "Riyadh Summit and the Revival of the Arab System.” The study reviews and analyses the consultations and coordination efforts between Arab League member states. It explores the effects of these interactions on the crisis in Syria which ultimately lead to the decision to reintegrate Syria to the Arab League on May 7, 2023. Syria shall return to take its seat in the League after thirteen years of absence. The study covers the political context of this long track and the motives of the concerned parties. The Riyadh Summit is studied in terms of aspirations and relevant challenges.
The study was prepared by Prof. Ali El Din Hilal, Professor of Political Science at Cairo University, for TRENDS center. It comes as part of TRENDS research programs on Middle East security, foreign Policy and international Relations. The author described the Riyadh Summit of 2023 as one of “Arab reconciliation,” or the summit of reviving the institutions of the Arab system. This summit is held after a series of intensive deliberations led by a group of Arab countries to reduce tensions in the region. These consultations took place on bilateral, tripartite and collective levels.
The study indicated that the Riyadh Summit is held in an atmosphere of relaxation of strained relations and the mitigation of entrenched conflicts. It will be held in the context of considerable desire for Arab détente and reconciliation.
It is widely perceived that the Summit shall leave a positive impact, heralding a new level of intensity into what would be a consistent engagement in the next two summits that will be held in 2023. The Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Mauritania, and the Arab-African Summit in Saudi Arabia. Hopes and expectations are rising that this Arab summit might have satisfactory results in terms of concerted decisions to support and develop this positive atmosphere.
The study discussed some of the salient challenges facing the current Arab drive towards solidarity, chief among them is the continuation of internal conflicts and wars in a number of Arab countries. Hence, the importance of launching cohesive initiatives to resolve these disputes. They include the political and military divisions in Libya, the presidential vacancy and the grinding socio-economic crisis in Lebanon, the heated military fighting in Sudan which broke out on April 15, 2023 and the ongoing dispute between Algeria and Morocco. Moreover, the study covers the possible means to address the aggressive Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, which escalated during the first six months of 2023. The study suggests that all these files would be on the agenda of the upcoming Riyadh Summit.
The study showed that the region is caught up in external forces’ rivalry that usually undermine Arab reconciliation and do not see it as serving their best interests.
The author believes that the current situation of Arab agreement is not based on ideological or intellectual foundations. Rather, it is based on a realistic assessment of the international context, the risks and challenges associated with it and the national interests of each country.
Reconciliation in this sense does not mean the absence of differences in viewpoints and competition between countries, as this is quite natural in state relations. However, it is important that these differences be managed in a peaceful manner, and that no party should deliberately seek to harm the interests of another member state.
The study called for the outputs of the Riyadh summit to revitalize the Arab League and its institutions of joint Arab action. The summit should seize the opportunity to review the various reports related to activating joint Arab action and reforming the Arab League system.
The author emphasized that the region and the world are facing an important moment in the history of joint Arab relations and action. This turning point is characterized by political realism and awareness about the link between the national interests of each country and joint Arab action.
There are great expectations, they require prudence and time to heal and achieve hopeful results in a gradual manner. The study expressed the hope that the Riyadh Summit would move towards action as agreed upon by the leaders of Arab countries on traditional issues. Arab disputes and conflicts, reconstruction, emerging issues such as supply chains, food security, climate change and environmental challenges are few examples. The important matter is that the Summit should come up with initiatives, road maps and feasible programs of action that would revive the Arab system.