BEIRUT: Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has said it will boycott this Sunday’s Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Beirut.
The boycott is in response to “negative acts carried out by the host country, Lebanon,” said Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.
The GNA “decided to boycott the summit after it was revealed that the host country did not provide the appropriate climate in accordance with the obligations, customs and traditions of such summits,” he added.
Supporters of the Lebanese Amal Movement tore down the Libyan flag from between the other flags raised on poles on the road to the airport to welcome the delegations participating in the summit.
They replaced it with the Amal flag to protest the kidnapping in Libya of Imam Musa Al-Sadr, a Lebanese-Iranian philosopher and Shiite religious leader, and two companions in 1987.
Photos of Amal members tearing down and replacing the Libyan flag went viral on social media.
This prompted Libyan protesters to remove the sign of the Lebanese Embassy in the Libyan capital and raise their country’s flag at the embassy’s main iron gate, said Lebanon’s ambassador to Libya, Mohammad Sukaina.
“Lebanon is convinced that what happened in Beirut and Tripoli is neither directed against the people of Libya nor against the Lebanese people,” he told the Lebanese National News Agency (NNA).
“We believe that the right, fair, and perhaps the only approach to establishing a good relationship between the Lebanese and Libyan people is that the competent authorities in Libya help free Imam Musa Al-Sadr and his companions.”
Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil sent a letter to his Libyan counterpart Mohamed Siala, expressing his regret that Libya will not participate in the summit.
Bassil also expressed his rejection of “the actions taken in Lebanon against Libya and its participation in the Beirut summit,” saying they do not reflect his position or his country’s.
Meanwhile, a debate in Lebanon over inviting Syria was settled by the supreme committee organizing the summit, which said: “Syria’s invitation is related to the decision of the Council of the Arab League and is not a Lebanese decision.”
In the halls of the summit’s venue, the flags of all Arab League member states were raised, including those of Syria and Libya, on Monday.
“The countdown to the summit has started,” said the summit’s media spokesman Rafic Chlala.
“The reconstruction of Syria is not on the summit’s agenda, but at the meeting of Arab leaders there may be decisions in this regard,” he added. “So far, this topic will not be discussed.”
The head of the committee, Antoine Choucair, said 24 items are on the agenda, and Lebanon wants to hold the event under the title “Prosperity for Peace.”
He added that Lebanese President Michel Aoun is considering an initiative inspired by the title, and will launch it during the summit.
The commander of the Lebanese Republican Guard, Brig. Gen. Salim Feghali, said it will be in charge of the summit’s security in cooperation with the rest of the security services.
He added that “500 officers and 7,000 soldiers will participate in securing the summit’s location as well as the road to the airport and the delegations’ accommodations.”
Feghali told Arab News: “The security forces will address the protests scheduled for Sunday… in a manner that ensures the safety of the summit.”
Brig. Gen. Joseph Al-Nahhas said: “The secure area will be closed starting Thursday midnight.”
He added: “The supreme committee has proposed to the caretaker prime minister, Saad Hariri, to make Friday a day off.” Al-Nahhas said Hariri had no objection to the proposal.
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Organizations Forum, hosted by the UN headquarters in Beirut, produced recommendations that will be submitted to the summit.
The forum’s organizers said the recommendations aim to “strengthen cooperation between governments and civil society, and provide an independent platform for civil society to allow experts to participate in and contribute to the development process.”
Manal Warde, Oxfam’s policy and campaigns manager for the Middle East and North Africa, said the forum aimed to influence the summit at a time when many Arab countries face public demands for democracy and economic reforms.
The UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) said it expects the summit to “provide an opportunity to develop mechanisms for achieving the (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.”