Call for joint Arab action at Lebanese-Kuwaiti summit

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (R) receiving Lebanese President Michel Aoun at Kuwait International Airport in Kuwait City on Jan. 23, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2018

Call for joint Arab action at Lebanese-Kuwaiti summit

BEIRUT: Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for increased Arab unity at the official Lebanese-Kuwaiti talks in Kuwait on Tuesday.

The two leaders announced plans to improve cooperation between the countries and highlighted the need for joint action, and to seize the chance to unite Arab stances and restore solidarity during the upcoming Arab Summit.

Kuwait’s emir and Lebanon’s president also condemned the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a statement released after the summit.

President Aoun expressed his gratitude “for Kuwait’s support for Lebanon in all circumstances.”

He requested that Kuwait participate in all three conferences for supporting Lebanon: The Rome Conference, the Paris Conference and the Brussels Conference, which will be held next month.

According to the Press and Information Office at the Baabda Palace, Emir Al-Sabah told President Aoun during a one-on-one meeting that “he has given his directives to the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to provide Lebanon with economic support and respond to its needs.”

He also said: “We will not hesitate to help Lebanon, whether directly or through international conferences.”

Kuwait’s emir believes his country’s current membership of the UN Security Council “can help highlight the rightness of Arab causes.”

According to his press office, Aoun said that Lebanon’s current stability encouraged investment and contribution to the economic development plan currently being developed.

He also referred to the suffering of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the repercussions of their presence on Lebanon’s economy, social life and security conditions.

President Aoun arrived in Kuwait on Tuesday for an official two-day visit, during which he will meet Kuwaiti officials and members of the Lebanese community living there.

The Lebanese-Kuwaiti summit was held in the conference hall at the Bayan Palace.

It began with general talks followed by two bilateral meetings. The talks were attended by Aoun’s official delegation, which consists of Gebran Bassil, Jamal Jarrah, Ayman Choukair, Inaya Ezzeddine and Kuwaiti officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah, Adviser Mohammed Abdullah Abu Al-Hasan and Kuwait’s Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul-Al Al-Qena’i.

Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al-Sabah said in a statement published by KUNA that the visit had been productive.

“The talks between Lebanon and Kuwait reviewed the bilateral relations between the two countries, their people, and ways to improve them in all fields to meet their aspirations and expand the scope of cooperation between Kuwait and Lebanon in a manner that serves their common interests,” he said.

“A friendly and cordial atmosphere prevailed at the talks, reflecting the mutual desire for greater cooperation and coordination at all levels.”

President Aoun later met Bishop Ghattas Hazim, Metropolitan of Baghdad, Kuwait and Dependencies, in his residence at the Bayan Palace.

Istanbul summit aimed at avoiding new humanitarian disaster in Idlib

Updated 22 October 2018

Istanbul summit aimed at avoiding new humanitarian disaster in Idlib

  • The event will focus on ‘harmonizing joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict’
  • Germany and France welcomed the Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib that had set Oct. 15 as the deadline for removing all radical groups from a demilitarized zone in the province

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to attend a critical four-way summit on Syria in Istanbul next Saturday. 

They will discuss recent developments in the war-torn country as well as projections for a political settlement.

Experts have underlined the importance of this summit in providing a strong push for key EU countries to work together with regional players to end the years-long conflict in Syria as it will gather the four countries’ leaders at the highest level.

The summit will focus on the recent developments in the opposition-held northwestern province of Idlib, and the parameters of a possible political settlement.

The ways for preventing a new refugee inflow from Idlib into Europe via Turkey, which is home to about 3.5 million Syrian residents, following a possible offensive by the Assad regime will also be raised as a topic that mainly concerns France and Germany and pushes them to work more closely with Turkey and Russia.

The summit will also aim at “harmonizing joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict,” presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin announced on Friday.

Germany and France welcomed the Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib that had set Oct. 15 as the deadline for removing all radical groups from a demilitarized zone in the province. Although the withdrawal of some opposition groups from the zone has not been accomplished in due time, Ankara and Moscow have agreed to extend the deadline for Idlib, which is still a strategic area where the opposition holds out.

“Turkey and Russia want the status quo for Idlib. Although the jihadists have not withdrawn from the demilitarized zone, Russia is turning a blind eye,” said Fabrice Balanche, an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon II.

“Turkey will make some efforts to save face. Turkish proxies have withdrawn because Turkey pays wages, so they must obey, but for the jihadists it is more complicated,” he told Arab News.

According to Balanche, without the complicity of Turkey, the Syrian regime cannot take over the north of the country.

“In exchange, Turkey wants a buffer zone in the north, all along its border. The main objective is, of course, to eliminate the Syrian Kurdish YPG from the border as it has already done in Afrin. A secondary objective is to protect its opposition allies and the Turkmen minorities, many in the province of Idlib but also between Azaz and Jarablus,” he said.

But the summit also shows that these four countries need each other in the Syrian theater as each of them has stakes regarding the settlement of the crisis.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said the main goal of the summit is to provide a major diplomatic boost to the ongoing Astana and Sochi peace processes, which have so far been led mainly by Turkey, Russia and Iran.

“A second and maybe even more important goal is to include France and Germany in the reconstruction efforts in Syria once the civil war is over,” he told Arab News.

Considering the cost of the reconstruction, estimated at about $400 billion, Ankara, Moscow and Tehran are not ready to take this enormous financial burden without the financial support of the West, Ersen said.

“Both Paris and Berlin hope that Ankara’s ongoing efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib can be successful. If the settlement in Idlib does not work, everybody is aware that this may lead to a big refugee crisis for both Turkey and Europe once again,” he added.

Martina Fietz, deputy spokeswoman for the German government, told a news conference in Berlin that her country is also hopeful about the forthcoming summit’s potential contribution to the stabilization of Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

“Progress in the UN-led political process, in particular the commencement of the work of the constitutional commission, will be discussed,” she said.

The chief foreign policy advisers of the quartet have met in Istanbul in recent weeks to discuss the agenda of the summit.