Yemen dominates Egypt summit agenda

Yemen dominates Egypt summit agenda
Arab leaders support continuing military intervention in Yemen - but the rest of the region's main issues were glossed over.
3 min read
29 March, 2015
Security in Sharm was tight for the Arab League summit [Getty]

The repercussions of the crisis in Yemen and Operation Decisive Storm dominated the 26th Arab League summit gathering held yesterday in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.

In his address, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi spoke about the Egyptian proposal of a "non-binding agreement" to create a "joint Arab force", and how this would express the collective will to protect the security of the Arab.

But after the terms of its working mechanism were leaked it was dismissed as an unachievable dream.

In any case, such a deterrent force has no bearing on the Arab League's response to the Yemen crisis; the basis of which is the request by Yemen's President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi for Arab military intervention.

Arab leaders' growing interest in Yemen seems to come in conjunction with their declining interest in the carnage in Syria, as though the Arab world has got used it and given up on trying to find strategy to confront it.

Instead, Arab leaders only mentioned the "Syrian tragedy" to express support for "the moderate opposition", while arguing openly about the fate of the Assad regime - which some Arab countries still believe "protects Syria from extremism and terrorism".

Arab leaders barely mentioned Palestine, or Binyamin Netanyahu's latest rejection of Palestinian statehood.

Likewise Iraq. The issues of sectarianism, exclusion and terrorism which were once so dominant were briefly discussed then placed in a new context related to the Iraqi and Libyan wars against the Islamic State group.

President Hadi called for the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen "to continue until the Houthi gang surrenders". He told his audience how he was subjected to "several attacks on the way to the summit".

"Just when I thought my country had overcome many obstacles after completing the draft constitution, dark forces returned to drag the country backwards, challenging the popular will and international legitimacy," he said.

Hadi reportedly travelled to Sharm via Riyadh and Oman, arriving only a few hours after the launch of the Saudi offensive on Thursday.

Saudi King Salman bin Abd al-Aziz's air force leads the ten-country military alliance in Yemen. 

"Operation Decisive Storm will continue until it achieves peace and security for the Yemeni people," he told the summit. "The Houthi aggression in Yemen poses a serious threat to the security of the Arab region."

King Salman and President Hadi travelled back to Riyadh together after they had addressed the summit.

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, attended the summit, his first visit to Egypt since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in June 2013. Egyptian TV channels aired live images of Sisi as he welcomed the Gulf leader at the airport.

In his address, the Qatari emir warned that the Assad regime could not be "part of any solution" as long as it continues to practice "the most brutal forms of murder".

"We stand firmly together to stop the war against the Syrian people," he said, calling for "Arab action".

Tamim called for the UN Security Council to "lift the siege of Gaza" and condemned "Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people".

He went on to accuse former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as the Houthis, of being responsible for the recent escalation of violence in Yemen, then addressed issues with Iran:

"Neighbourly relations are based on respect for the sovereignty of other states and non-interference in their internal affairs."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.