Arab states snub Syria over summit

Bashar Assad is also unlikely to be invited to the next Arab League summit in Tunisia
Updated 08 January 2019
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Arab states snub Syria over summit

  • Lebanon resists Hezbollah pressure to issue invitation, Arab League cancels talks on readmission
  • The Arab Economic and Social Development Summit will be held next week

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Monday resisted mounting pressure from Hezbollah to invite a delegation from Syria to an Arab economic summit next week in Beirut.

Syrian leader Bashar Assad is also unlikely to be invited to the next Arab League summit in Tunisia in March, after a planned meeting to discuss Syria’s readmission to the body was canceled.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 and imposed political and economic sanctions over the Syrian civil war. Three months later, the Gulf Cooperation Council states withdrew their ambassadors from Damascus. 

However, as the Assad regime solidifies its military victory after seven years of war, with help from Russia and Iran, there is growing pressure to normalize relations.

In Lebanon, the campaign is being led by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. The group’s parliamentary bloc said it was “in Lebanon’s interest to invite Syria to participate in the Arab Economic
and Social Development Summit,” which begins in Beirut on Jan. 16.

Inviting Syria “would strengthen Lebanon and would be in its strategic interest, especially as current developments are creating a positive Arab atmosphere that is seeing Arab states rushing back to Damascus, and as Syria’s closest neighbor and considering the country’s interests, Lebanon should be at the forefront of efforts to reinforce and strengthen this atmosphere,” Hezbollah said.

If Syria were not invited the summit should be postponed, the group said, but Lebanon rejected both suggestions.

“Lebanon is hosting and organizing the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit but is not the one inviting states. Invitations remain the competence of the Arab League,” Rafiq Chlala, head of the summit’s media committee, told Arab News. 

“Syria had not attended the previous Arab summits upon the Arab League’s decision, but it can return to participating by a decision from the Arab League,” he said.

“Lebanon has nothing to do with this issue, and President Aoun has pledged not to postpone the economic summit and to hold it on time.”

President Michel Aoun confirmed that the summit “will be held on time,” and said Lebanon’s failure for the past eight months to form a Cabinet of ministers under Prime Minister Saad Hariri was no reason to postpone it.

“The current government is exercising its powers according to the constitution,” he said.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, have already confirmed their attendance. Other Arab leaders are expected to do so in the next few days.

Delegates will meet initially on Jan. 16 to agree on the topics for discussion and draft a communique. Foreign ministers will meet on Jan. 18, followed by delegation chiefs and national leaders on Jan. 19, before the full summit on Jan. 20.


UN Security Council approves Hodeidah ceasefire monitoring force in Yemen

Updated 16 January 2019
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UN Security Council approves Hodeidah ceasefire monitoring force in Yemen

  • Deployment will be known as the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement
  • Resolution requests the larger force to be deployed expeditiously

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized the deployment of up to 75 observers to Yemen's port city of Hodeidah for six months to monitor a ceasefire.

The Security Council last month authorized an advance monitoring team led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert and asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to recommended a larger operation.

The initial deployment came after a deal reached during talks in Sweden between the Iran-backed Houthi militants and the internationally recognized government. The UN says the ceasefire that went into force on Dec.18 in Hodeida has been generally holding, but there have been delays in the redeployment of Hothi and some government forces from the city.

The British-drafted resolution adopted on Wednesday asks Guterres to "expeditiously" deploy his recommended larger operation, which will be known as the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA).
The resolution also "requests Member States, particularly neighboring States, to support the United Nations as required for the implementation of UNMHA's mandate."
Guterres described the mission as a "nimble presence" that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.

Hodeidah is the entry point for most of Yemen's commercial goods and aid supplies, and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis on the verge of starvation.