Beirut Economic Summit Kicks Off in Absence of Most Arab Leadersإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The works of the Beirut-hosted fourth edition of the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit kicked off on Sunday, amid the absence of the vast majority of Arab heads of state.
President Michel Aoun opened the summit by inviting Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Jadaan to deliver the speech of the host of the summit’s previous edition.
Al-Jadaan is leading the delegation of the kingdom, which had hosted the summit in Riyadh in 2013.
An official picture of the participants was taken prior to the opening speeches.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad and the president of Mauritania were the only heads of state from the 22-member Arab League who came to Beirut to attend the summit. Other countries sent lower-level delegations.
The other leaders' absence appeared to be a snub to Lebanon, where groups led by Hizbullah had insisted that Syria should be invited.
Aoun welcomed the leaders of Qatar and Mauritania at the airport. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri meanwhile welcomed delegations led by prime ministers, foreign and finance ministers and presidential representatives.
At the Lebanese level, the summit’s works will be attended by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and other ministers and MPs. Speaker Nabih Berri will meanwhile boycott the summit and will be represented by MP Yassine Jaber.
Berri had called for postponing the summit and objected against the absence of Syria and the invitation of Libya. Libya eventually withdrew from the summit after its flag was removed from a pole in Beirut by supporters of Berri’s AMAL Movement.
Lebanese newspapers ran despairing headlines about the summit on Friday.
"The Beirut shock... a summit without heads of state," the country's oldest Arabic-language newspaper An-Nahar said.
The summit’s opening session will be followed by two public sessions and a closed-door one. The resolutions will be announced at a closing session.
The summit is expected to approve an agenda of 29 items, topped by supporting investment in countries hosting Syrian refugees and speeding up the creation of an Arab customs unions.
Lebanon has meanwhile protested against the use of the phrase “voluntary return” in clauses related to the repatriation of Syrian refugees.
Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit had on Friday announced that Syria’s return to the Arab League requires “Arab consensus.”