CAIRO: Arab leaders convened in Doha Monday for the first of a two-day Arab summit as they attempted to heal recent rifts, apparently to no avail.
Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi walked out of the opening session after cutting off Qatar’s Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani in order to address Saudi King Abdallah.
According to media reports, Qaddafi was trying to tell the Saudi King to turn a new leaf and forget past disputes, but when Al-Thani refused to let him continue, he stormed out. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad followed him to try to ask him to return but he refused.
Qaddafi was attempting to tell Abdallah that he had wronged him at a previous summit and called for reconciliation. They later met for half an hour behind closed doors and it is believed that some sort of reconciliation did take place.
Also attending the summit was Sudanese president Omar Al-Beshir, who was issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 4. Qatar not being a signatory of the ICC was under no obligation to arrest him.
The Arab leaders called for unity in the ranks, and all those who spoke defended Al-Beshir and condemned the ICC for issuing such a warrant against a sitting head of state.
However, adding to the tension, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also addressed the summit during the opening session, and criticized Al-Beshir for expelling aid groups in Darfur in the wake of the ICC’s decision.
“Relief efforts should not become politicized, the UN chief said. “People in need must be helped irrespective of political differences. At the same time, peace and justice are core principles of the United Nations. We must all be committed to both.
Saudi Arabia has sponsored a draft resolution for the summit calling for “dialogue and consultation in resolving Arab differences and avoiding “fiery and escalatory language… and rejecting ruptures in relations and disputes.
The resolution also calls for “action to develop a common Arab strategy to confront political, security and economic challenges.
Al-Assad in his speech also called for Arab unity and declared that “there is no peace partner for Arabs in Israel, adding that both the Israeli people and their government do not want peace.
He also criticized European countries for refusing to adopt the Arab peace initiative in the past only to call for its adoption now.
The foreign ministers’ meeting on Saturday also led to a draft declaration urging the ICC to renege on its arrest warrant and calling on all Arab states to reject the ICC’s move.
Before arriving in Doha, Qaddafi labeled the ICC a “new form of world terrorism. It is not fair that a head of state should be arrested. If we allow such a thing… we should also try those who killed hundreds and millions of children in Iraq and in Gaza.
Conspicuous by their absence were President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who did not attend the foreign ministers’ meeting the day before the summit.
Egypt is still smarting over Qatar’s stance during the Gaza crisis which it perceived to be critical of Egypt.