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Why are the summits in Makkah being held?

May 30, 2019 at 2:12 am

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (C) leaves after a family photo during a meeting of Islamic and Arab Foreign Ministers in Jeddah on 30 May 2019, ahead of the Gulf, Arab, and Islamic summit to be held in Mecca [BANDAR ALDANDANI/AFP/Getty]

Over the next two days, three summits will be held in Makkah. Two of the summits were called for by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, one emergency summit for the Gulf states and another for the Arab states, and will be held tomorrow and after. As for the third, it is the 14th session of the OIC Islamic Summit Conference, which will be held under the patronage of the Saudi monarch. The summits are being held during the holy month of Ramadan and in the same place (Makkah), both, the time and place, have special significance and holiness for the Arabs and Muslims. The three summits are being held in a sensitive regional and international situation, characterised with increased tension in the region and the loud sounds of war drums. They are being held at a time when conflict and destruction have spread to several Arab and Muslim countries, under a state of chaos and instability in some countries, and in light of the reality of fragmentation, division, and an unprecedented level of conflict in the history of the region.

The Arab and Muslim summits no longer achieve anything or dictate the course of events, and whether or not they are held is irrelevant, as they achieve nothing and change nothing. Most of them have become platforms for boring speeches, with the most important thing about them are the jokes and goofs caught by photographers’ cameras of leaders falling asleep or others stumbling over the words of speeches they did not write, and sometimes do not understand. Since Saudi Arabia and the UAE took control of the Arab League summits, its meetings have turned into sessions to approve ready-made decisions coming from above.

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It is known that the Saudi call for the Arab summits came after the targeting of commercial ships off the Emirates’ port of Fujairah and the Yemeni Houthis’ bombing of the Saudi oil pumps, and in the context of regional tension characterized by the drums of war between Iran and the United States, and the expansion of the war in Yemen, now affecting Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We are also witnessing the continued destructive wars in Syria and Libya. Even now, before the two summits have been held, we can deduce part of what Saudi Arabia is aiming for in its call for this “remobilisation” of the Arab states in its orbit and behind the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s wars and adventures. This is especially true for his new front against Iran, which, using its agents in the region, managed to bomb the heart of Saudi Arabia and target strategic sites and sensitive sectors in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

However, before Saudi Arabia asks the Arab and Islamic countries to support its new policies adopted by the adventurous crown prince, which has made Saudi Arabia a partner in destructive wars, a partner in conspiracies against the Arab governments and people, and a funder of plans that aim to divide and tear apart the region, after being, in the past, a reference, host, and land for peace, coming together, and interests, the Arab countries participating in the two summits must ask their host to stop for a moment and reconsider. They must ask their host to look back on the mistakes of the destructive policies and adverse effects, not only on Saudi Arabia but on the region as a whole and on all the shared values and holy sites that the land on which these summits are held symbolises.

Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud (2nd L) is welcomed by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (2nd R) with an official ceremony at Abu Dhabi Airport in Abu Dhabi, UAE on 22 November 2018 [BANDAR ALGALOUD/Anadolu Agency]

Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud (L) is welcomed by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with an official ceremony at Abu Dhabi Airport in Abu Dhabi, UAE on 22 November 2018 [BANDAR ALGALOUD/Anadolu Agency]

Over the past years, Saudi Arabia has sought to build Arab and Islamic alliances, both military and non-military, all of which have failed. Some were stillborn due to the reckless policies adopted by the Crown Prince and his partner in the same adventures, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed. If Saudi Arabia is serious this time in wanting to build real alliances, it must first reconsider its policy in the region, and start by declaring the end of its devastating war in Yemen. It must also lift its blockade on Qatar, stop its media and propaganda war against Iran, which aims to provoke and incite the US to wage a fight in the region, stop all public and secret cooperation with Israel, and issue a statement rejecting the deal of the century. Saudi Arabia must also boycott the conference in Bahrain, aiming to promote the agreement of the century and stop its interference in the affairs of other countries, such as Libya and Sudan. It must leave the nations of other Arab countries to decide their fates and respond to the urges and appeals calling on it to release dozens of prisoners of conscience held in its prisons who are threatened with being beheaded at any moment once their sentences are ready.

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The Makkah summits will be meaningless and fruitless if they are being held merely to endorse the same policies that led the fragmentation of the region, the destruction of its countries and the displacement of its people. It can, however, turn into a glimmer of hope that gives Saudi Arabia the lifeline it needs today to save it from those who seized control of it and turned it into a source of wars and destruction, after being a land of peace and dialogue.

The Saudi summits should be directed at the future if they want to be successful and should respond to what most of the countries of the region and its peoples in the Arab and Islamic world want. It is a disappointment to the OIC conference slogan, “Hand in Hand toward the Future”, as given Saudi Arabia’s material and financial weight, along with its moral influence and religious and symbolic references, it is capable of leading the Arab and Muslim worlds, along with their people, and to a better reality than the one they are living today. However, it cannot invite its guests to hold hands while it and other countries are holding hands with the enemies of the nation and using their other hand to stab countries sharing their values, religion, language, history, and geography in the back.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 29 May 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.