Published: Sun, January 20, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Qatar’s emir in Beirut for Arab economic summit

Qatar’s emir in Beirut for Arab economic summit

This led to numerous 20 participating nations to send lower ranking representatives in place of their heads of state in the wake of the violent reaction of a group of Amal Movement supporters calling for Libya's exclusion, coupled with the discord over Syria's suspended participation.

But almost eight years into the Syrian war that has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions, efforts to bring the government of President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab fold appear underway. "It doesn't take away from the importance of the issues (to be decided at the meeting)", said the Arab League Assistant Secretary General Hussam Zaki.

Qatar's ruler attended the summit, which has been marred by divisions over readmitting Syria to the Arab League.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said on Saturday that Egypt plays a great role in the Arab region, describing as good Beirut-Cairo relations.

Despite Syria' absence at the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit held in Beirut by the Arab League (AL), the debate over normalizing the pan-Arab body's ties with Syria cast a shadow over the gathering.

Speaking during the summit on Sunday, Saudi Arabia's Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan said that the kingdom will propose incorporating the AESD into the annual Arab League summit, in an apparent jab to Lebanon, which had hoped to use the platform to boost it's sinking economy.

In December, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir made the first visit by any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since 2011, and the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus having closed it in 2012.

The United Nations estimated that the war in Syria caused around €350 billion worth of damage.

The Lebanese president called for the establishment of an "Arab reconstruction and development bank" that will assist "all affected Arab states and people" in overcoming their struggles and achieving long-term economic growth.

Seven Arab leaders had been expected at Sunday's summit but only Sheikh Tamim and the president of Mauritania came to Beirut.

Other countries sent lower-level delegations.

Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has helped Assad's military defeat rebels and militants, wants rapprochement with Damascus.

With the lack of attendees at the summit, Lebanese newspapers ran despairing headlines on Friday.

It aims to make Arab leaders agree on a joint statement after discussing the Arab free trade zone and economic impact of Syrian refugees.

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