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Attendance thin again at Arab League summit?

March 29, 2017 - JORDAN

King Abdullah II hosts Arab leaders in Amman near the 30th anniversary of the League's historic agreement to readmit Egypt to the fold. He will have 22 leaders if he has a full house, but the summits are notable for absenteeism - and also for rifts over regional conflicts and concerns.

In Nov 1987, the late King Hussein headed an extraordinary summit in Amman that ended the Arab boycott of Egypt, which was implemented after Cairo signed a unilateral peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Al Monitor reports that Abdullah will appeal for help from the leaders. According to the regional publication, the presence of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan has worsened the country's economic woes.

Only seven leaders attended the 2016 summit in Mauritania, which was cut to one day because of the low turnout. Abdullah himself was a no-show, as was Egypt's president Abdel-Fatah el-Sisi, despite the election in Mar 2016 of former Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit as the new secretary-general of the organization. Saudi King Salman and his powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were noticeably absent. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the leaders of Tunisia and Algeria also failed to turn up.

The newer issues for the leaders include the potential triumph of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his more than 5-year-old civil war, as well as possible changes favoring Israel in the United States' policy on East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements under the country's new president, Donald Trump.

Al Monitor notes that Arab League summits have a poor track record of success, usually underlining rifts rather than accord. Agreement is widest on the so-called Israel-Palestine two-state solution, though some states back Hamas and others back Fatah, the rival Palestinian powers. The leaders also condemn Islamic extremism, but assign blame differently.

Jordan faces tough path ahead as next Arab summit host (AL MONITOR 20 Dec 2016)

Arab League elects former Egyptian diplomat Abul Gheit as new chief (Reuters 10 Mar 2016)

Most leaders shun Arab League summit (DW 27 Jul 2016)

Qatar-Gulf deal forces expulsion of Muslim Brotherhood leaders (Guardian 16 Sep 2014)

Date written/update: 2017-01-04