Arab Summit Marks New
by Hussein al-Nadeem
Reality in Middle East
An Arab summit meeting was held in the capital of Jordan, Amman, on March 27-28. Although many important issues were unresolved, such as the Iraq-Kuwait dispute, it marked an important shift and a new direction for inter-Arab relations and strategies.
First, this was the first "regular" summit, meaning that it will become an institution for annual discussions among Arab leaders, even if one or more Arab leaders were not to attend. Second, the Iraqi issue was discussed openly for the first time, and unanimous agreement was reached by all Arab member-states, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, on the necessity for unconditionally lifting UN sanctions against Iraq. However, as the Iraqi side expressed reservations about this compromise, it was not included in the final communiqué, entitled the "Amman Declaration," but in a separate statement.
Another important breakthrough was that the issue of pan-Arab economic cooperation and integration was placed on the summit agenda. A proposal by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for holding an Arab economic summit was endorsed for the first time.
The summit also expressed support for Sudan, and acknowledged its right to defend its national sovereignty and independence in the face of an international campaign aimed at splitting the country and looting its oil and other natural resources.
The Death of the Peace Process
One striking feature of the speeches and discussions of the Arab leaders, was the overwhelming pessimism and general belief that the peace process is completely dead, especially with Ariel Sharon coming to power in Israel. The question asked, was not whether there will be new peace negotiations between Israel and the Arabs, but when a new war is most likely to break out. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon sent a swift answer on the evening of the conclusion of the summit, when Israeli attack helicopters launched missile attacks on the Palestinian Authority's offices and security headquarters in Gaza and the West Bank. This attack came allegedly in response to suicide attacks on Israeli civilians carried out by Islamic Jihad. However, the Israeli government's targetting of Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization as the "terrorist mastermind," is a clear signal that the bombing was a provocation, and that Sharon's government desires an open war with the Palestinian Authority and its Arab allies.
In support of the Palestinian National Authority, the Arab leaders made a number of pledges of financial and political help. "The leaders express their extreme indignation at the United States' use of its veto in the [UN] Security Council against the draft resolution about protection for the Palestinian people ... and express their complete rejection of the American justifications. This position does not conform at all with the United States' responsibilities as a sponsor of the peace process," the final communiqué read. It demanded that the UN Security Council provide protection for the Palestinians. The communiqué further demanded, in an indirect reference to Sharon, that "the Security Council try Israeli war criminals who have committed massacres and crimes against Arab citizens throughout the Arab occupied territories and elsewhere."
Arab leaders agreed to release $240 million to the Palestinian National Authority in soft loans to meet the urgent needs in the Palestinian territories, which are facing an Israeli economic siege. The leaders welcomed Iraq's designation of 1 billion euros from its oil export sales (part of the UN oil-for-food agreement) to secure needed food, medical, and other essential supplies for the Palestinians.
Arab leaders also warned that the Arab states would break off all relations with any government that decides to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Iraq and Kuwait
The final communiqué did not include any statement on the understanding reached by the majority of the Arab states on solving what they called "the Iraq-Kuwait situation," in order to clear the atmosphere of the deep disagreements over Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the Gulf War, and sanctions against Iraq.
These proposals included: reaffirming respect for the independence and sovereignty of Kuwait, ensuring its security and territorial integrity inside internationally recognized borders, non-interference in its internal affairs, and the reaffirmation of Iraq's commitment to that and asking it to take all necessary measures to ensure respect for those obligations; reaffirming the independence and the sovereignty of Iraq, its territorial integrity and regional security, non-interference in its internal affairs, and demanding an end to all that it is being subjected to, in terms of actions and measures that are touching upon its sovereignty and threatening its security, especially those taken outside the framework of the pertinent UN Security Council resolutions, i.e., the military strikes.
This is a direct attack on the Anglo-American bombing in the so-called no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq. Furthermore, it means that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia should refrain from providing bases for the American and British forces targetting Iraq.
The communiqué also called on Iraq to complete all commitments to the problem of prisoners of war, missing Kuwaitis and others, and returning Kuwaiti properties; demanded an end to all unresolved problems related to weapons of mass destruction and weapons control through negotiations between Iraq and the UN Security Council; called for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iraq; and urged all necessary measures to resume commercial flights with Iraq.
The Iraqi criticism was directed against the demand placed upon Iraq to "reaffirm" its "commitment" to the security of Kuwait. Iraqi officials said that Iraq has already acknowledged Kuwait's sovereignty and borders, and they expressed dismay at the fact that the Arab states only called for lifting the sanctions and will not endeavor to lift them unilaterally, as the Iraqis have demanded.
The Arab states decided to assign the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, the mission of carrying out a "reconciliation effort" to solve the problems between Iraq and Kuwait, and included that in the final communiqué.
In the days leading up to the summit, and during its sessions, an important memo prepared by EIR on an economic development strategy for the Arab world, was circulated among governments and in the Arabic press. The "open memo," in Arabic, was published on the Internet in the London-based Middle East Online, on March 16 and again on the opening day of the summit. The memo, which was prepared by this author, informed the Arab leaders of the work of Lyndon LaRouche and EIR for a New Bretton Woods global financial system and for the construction of the New Silk Road, or Eurasian Land-Bridge, as programs through which the Arab nations could "assume an honorable position among the ranks of other great nations in the march toward a new humanist civilization in the 21st Century."
The memo, which was published in other Arabic press as well, outlined the collapse of the speculative, post-industrial International Monetary Fund system, the hyperinflationary trend in the Western financial policies since the Asia crisis and the Y2K bubble, the demise of the U.S. economy as the importer of last resort, and the alternative represented by LaRouche's proposal for a New Bretton Woods financial reorganization.
The 16-page memo included four maps, dealing extensively with the Eurasian Land-Bridge and LaRouche's Oasis Plan for economic development of the Middle East, including provision of large amounts of fresh water through nuclear desalination. One Arab League official who had received the memo remarked to EIR on March 15, "This is worth discussing in the preparations for the summit," particularly at the meeting of the economic experts on March 18, and among the member-states, which were to refer ideas on "Arab economic integration and cooperation" to the ministers of economy and finance, meeting on March 23.
At the summit, the idea of economic integration was the centerpiece of debate. Egypt and Jordan made an important effort to make economic cooperation and integration among the Arab countries an official commitment by the member states. In his speech, Egypt's President Mubarak emphasized the importance of creating a strong Arab economic bloc, in the face of globalization and the emergence of regional blocs and alliances. He said that he presented a number of proposals for the summit to discuss. "In the light of accelerating economic developments that the world witnesses, the economic dimension in joint Arab action has become more pressing and essential. In this connection, Egypt has submitted a request to list three new items on the agenda of our conference to activate joint economic action," he said.
The proposals are related to activating the "free trade agreement" among the Arab countries, and creating a customs union. They also include specific practicable ideas and proposals to create linkages among Arab countries in terms of joint infrastructure systems, including transport facilities, telecommunications, establishment of gas, oil, and electricity transfer networks, in addition to enhancing the investment of Arab capital and finances in Arab national agro-industrial projects. The second item relates to Egypt's proposal for an Arab economic conference to be held in Cairo in November 2001. Participants would include all Arab countries, Arab economic institutions, and major international corporations operating in the Arab region. The third item relates to establishing Arab cooperation in the field of information and communications technology.
Arab leaders endorsed all these proposals and assigned the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League to establish the mechanisms for following and studying them in order to present them to the member states before the November economic summit.
This new inter-Arab economic cooperation will automatically replace the Middle East and North Africa economic cooperation forum, which was created after the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was signed in Oslo, and has been supported by the European Union as a vehicle to establish economic cooperation between the Arabs and Israel.
With the imminent threat of war coming from both the Sharon government and the U.S. Bush Administration, it is very difficult to say whether any of the positive developments achieved in the Arab summit will ever become reality. No one in the region is pretending that these problems can be solved by the Arab states alone. But, a basic shift in economic-policy thinking has taken place among them, toward Eurasian economic reconstruction as a whole.