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The Summit of,C* "Small" Hopes.

The Arab Summit in Sirt ended as it had started, without any breakthroughs in disputed issues between Arab states. The latter have resorted to the solution which they have become accustomed to, that of deferring disputed issues to the next summit, and of agreeing over consensual formulations for the Sirt Statement, formulations which everyone who participated in the summit approve of, so as for none of them to leave the coastal Libyan city with disapproval in their hearts. I do not know who dubbed the meeting of Arab leaders in Sirt "the Summit of Great Hopes". Had it been agreed for the summit to carry such a title, or was it chosen by its organizers? Indeed, those who follow up on and live with Arab affairs in particular are well aware that the Arab peoples were not dreaming of high hopes from this summit, and that its agenda itself did not include clauses related to the conquest of Acre for example, or to achieving comprehensive development in the Arab homeland, but rather the same clauses which were discussed at previously held Arab summits and of which none were achieved, in addition of course to "recent developments". And it is well known that the Arabs' "recent developments" are always unpleasant and never have anything to do with happiness or with anything that would bring joy to the hearts of the peoples of Arab countries.

It has become well-entrenched in people's minds that there is no summit that can achieve the hopes of the Arab peoples. And the most important part of any summit has become those reconciliations that might take place between two or more Arab leaders, between whom contacts or meetings had ceased as a result of their disagreement over a certain stance, a sentence used in a speech or an expression used in an interview. Yet even such reconciliations have at Arab summits in the past few years turned into reconciliations of form, "acclaimed" by the media, their pictures published in the press and "shots" of them broadcast on news reports and talk shows - then everyone surprised to find that the matter was simply one of meeting over a dinner table under the spotlight, and that the contradictions have remained as they were without being resolved.

The main issue facing the emergency summit in Sirt regarded developing the Arab system. Yet the Arab Summit ended without being developed at all and the Arab system will remain as it is until the next summit, despite the fact that the issue has been on the table for many years, being deferred from one summit to another, such that it seems as if the Arab system is content with remaining as it is without being developed at all. Furthermore, this was an "emergency" summit, dubbed so despite the fact that its date has been known since last March, having been scheduled during the regular Arab Summit also held in Sirt in that same month. And because the Arabs never reach consensus over specific issues, among them that of developing the Arab system or the mechanism of the Arab neighborhood, a meeting bringing together Arab leaders for two, three or even four hours cannot resolve problems that have been imposed by interests, competition or considerations of gains and losses.

More importantly, the Sirt Declaration had been written and prepared before the leaders met, its content having been distributed to those following the summit after the meeting of Foreign Ministers which had preceded the summit. Some had waited for any of the leaders to request changing a word, a sentence or an expression in the declaration, but this did not happened. Does this mean that Arab summits have become useless and that it would be better not to hold them? Of course not, as bilateral meeting between Arab leaders, maintaining the image of Arab solidarity even if of pure form, solving a few problems even if they are simple, and appearing before the world as if "the Arabs have decisions" to make, are all positive aspects, although they may not reach the extent of "Great Hopes". Indeed, if the Arabs have nothing left but small hopes, achieving them is better than nothing at all.

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Oct 11, 2010
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