Arab summit in Sirte stresses solidarity with Sudan, approves principle to refurbish Arab action system

Peace initiative committee meets in month to settle on future of negotiations

Prince Saudi Al-Faisal: There’s no Arab neutrality on Sudan issue

Saudi Foreign Minister says Sudan neighbors’ exploitation of vacuum caused by Arab absence

The Arab League opened a summit in Libya on Oct. 9 with the pressing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Sudan added to the original agenda, its secretary general Amr Moussa said.

"Two important issues, Sudan and the Arab-Israeli conflict," were added to the agenda of the gathering being held behind closed doors of a dozen Arab leaders, Moussa said.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir would submit reports to the summit, which would also be attended by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Arab leaders initially planned to discuss two items - reforms to the Arab League and a proposal to create an "Arab neighborhood" of countries that would include Iran and Turkey.

In the absence of a consensus on these points, however, the League's foreign ministers agreed to submit proposals on "the development of joint Arab action" but to postpone the neighborhood issue until their next summit.

The summit got under way after the Arab League Follow-up Committee for the peace process on Oct. 8 backed Abbas's threat to quit direct talks with Israel unless the Jewish state halts settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

The committee of 13 foreign ministers urged the United States to pursue its efforts to stop Israeli settlement activity, and said it would meet again in one month to review alternative measures if that fails.

Sudan, whose president is wanted for alleged genocide and other crimes in Darfur, is once again a focus of the international community, this time ahead of a Jan. 9 referendum in which southerners could opt for independence.

The second Arab-African summit closed in the Libyan city of Sirte with the participating countries reaffirming commitment to promoting relations, boosting cooperation and establishing the strategic partnership between African and Arab nations.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, returned home after leading the UAE delegation to the Arab League and Arab- Africa Summits in Sirte, Libya. He was received by Crown Prince of Dubai Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, other Shaikhs and senior officials.

Hosted by the Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi, the summit which attracted more than 60 Arab and African leaders focused on regional cooperation on energy water resources, infrastructure investment, food security and agriculture, and regional issues on security, fighting terrorism and coordination in international affairs.

Gaddafi warned ahead of a vote on possible independence for south Sudan, that a partition of the country would be a ‘contagious disease’ that could spread to other African states.

“What is happening in Sudan could become a contagious disease that affects the whole of Africa,” Gaddafi said at the opening of an Arab-Africa summit in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte.

“We must recognize that this event is dangerous,” he said of the planned January 9 referendum on southern Sudan independence which could see Africa’s largest country split in two.

A simultaneous referendum is to be held in the disputed oil-rich Abyei region, straddling north and south Sudan, on which part it wants to belong to.

“The partition of Sudan is likely to change the map of the country. But other (African countries) will change too,” the Libyan leader told the gathering, which is being attended by Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir.

Gaddafi had called in March for Nigeria to be partitioned between the Christian and Muslim communities to solve its problem of sectarian violence.

He proposed that it should follow the model of Pakistan, which was born in 1947 after the Muslim minority of predominantly Hindu India founded their own homeland.

Most of Africa’s borders are arbitrary, resulting from colonies carved out by European empire-builders that often divided tribal or linguistic groups between one or more territories.

Any effort to change that could lead to a radical redrawing of the continent’s maps.

In Sudan, vote preparations are way behind schedule and tensions remain high. Clashes erupted during a visit to the capital by UN Security Council ambassadors between separatists and opponents of Sudan’s potential breakup.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade proposed that a delegation of five African and Arab heads of state travel to Sudan in a bid to defuse tensions there, Bashir advisor Mustapha Othman Ismail said.

For his part, the chairman of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, told the summit that the “referendum for both southern Sudan and the Abyei region in 2011 continues to be a source of concern, given the complexity of pre- and post-referendum issues which need to be resolved”.

The referendum is a central plank of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended two decades of civil war in Sudan, a north-south conflict in which two million people died.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa voiced concerns about “the referendum’s impact on security and stability on a large region of Africa and the Middle East”.

He said the League was working with Khartoum to resolve outstanding issues over the referendum, and stressed the need for “good preparation”.

Moussa called for “a credible and transparent ballot that reflects the will of the people of south Sudan and the Abyei region.”

In a summit draft declaration seen by AFP, the leaders stress the need to “respect Sudanese sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”.

The draft “Sirte Declaration” also affirms their “complete rejection of any attempt to undermine its (Sudan’s) sovereignty, unity, security or stability.”

“The importance of completing negotiations on questions pertaining to issues in post-referendum south Sudan” is also underlined in the draft.

According to the document, the leaders also “reject resolutions by the International Criminal Court against the Sudanese president.”

Bashir, the first sitting head of state to face arrest warrants issued by the ICC, denies masterminding war crimes and genocide in Sudan’s war-wracked western region of Darfur.

The gathering is also set to discuss establishing a strategic partnership between Arab and African states in areas such as energy, trade and food security.

This is only the second such summit ever held, the first one dating back to a 1977 meeting in Cairo.

Meanwhile, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the delegation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Sirte extraordinary Arab summit, conveyed the greetings and wishes of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the participants in the summit, stressing the importance of examining ways necessary to develop the joint Arab action' system.

This came in a speech made by Prince Saud Al-Faisal before the extraordinary Arab summit, which opened in the Libyan city of Sirte.

In his speech, Prince Saud Al-Faisal greeted President Muammar Qaddafi, Leader of September Revolution and the President of the Conference of the extraordinary Arab summit; Secretary General of the Arab League; President of the African Union Commission and all other participants.

He stressed the need to examine ways necessary to develop the system of the joint Arab action, including the institution of the Arab League, and to look into the suggestion put forward by the Secretary General of the Arab League during the regular Arab Summit held in March on the establishment of a league for Arab neighborhood on the grounds that this matter involves a joint Arab and regional interest.

On the vision of the Arab League Secretary General on the policy of Arab neighborhood which reflects an abstract of Amr Moussa's read of the Arab situations in the Middle East in general, Prince Saud Al-Faisal explained that this vision returns to a sense of the erosion of the regional role of the Arab system in its environment and centre compared to an ascending of the role of some other countries, let alone the continued Israeli defiance.

According to the assumptions underlying the proposal of the Secretary General, the Arab reality pushes us to launch a new era in the history of the Arab system's relationship with its geographical surroundings with the aim to provide innovative means and mechanisms to make the Arab system more able to face current and future challenges and contain the coming threats, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs added.

He went on in his speech by saying that just feeling the need to hold an extraordinary summit to discuss ways of enhancing the joint Arab action and the initiative of Arab neighborhood's policy reflects the importance of this matter since it is associated with the present and the future of the Arab nation.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal pointed out that the issue of joint Arab action has cast its shadow over the Arab meetings at their various levels and it was a topic of ongoing talk and controversy resulted in series of projects and plans, but did not lead to tangible results so far.

Though, he stressed that such an initiative is very important and worthy due its doubtless noble goals.

In his speech before Sirte Arab summit, Prince Saud Al-Faisal also said that 'Of course, we look forward to develop our relations with neighboring countries to its extreme extent that we wish at least but I think that you share my opinion that the proposal of the neighborhood policy will not achieve its desired goal only after we provide for this type of special relationship the terms of success.

'Accordingly, the Kingdom sees that it's better to gradually focus on ways of promoting and advancing the Arab action to be already an active and influential joint action at the Arab and international levels. It is true that the absence of an effective and influential Arab role has created a strategic vacuum that is exploited by many neighboring countries, but I see that the reform of this system requires us to primarily activate the Arab cooperation through the strengthening of the institution of the Arab League and this matter does not require any significant changes in the Arab League's Charter but just a serious and practical commitment, Prince Saud Al-Faisal explained in his speech.

On the Sudanese cause, Prince Saud Al-Faisal pointed out to what is happening in Sudan, though it is an Arab country and Arab League member, it is threatened by secession.

He added that it is not justified that the Arab League sits on the fence about what happens in Sudan, especially as 'we are going to have an imminent Arab/African meeting, which requires to address this situation within the framework of Arab-African solidarity.

'The threat of secession may not be in the interest to Sudan and in our view that the interests of the two parties should help Sudan to overcome this risk and that the referendum must be fair and should hold without any pressure may lead to ominous results, therefore, we hope for a joint Arab-African stance represents the beginning of a new era of Arab-African solidarity', Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs concluded his speech.