Shaikh Hamad Bin Mohammad Al Sharqi, who is leading the UAE delegation, at the Arab summit, yesterday. Image Credit: WAM

Nouakchott: A 22-nation Arab summit to tackle the region’s various crises was cut back to a single day of talks on Monday due to the absence of heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi stayed at home because of “a busy domestic schedule” while Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz’s no-show was due to “health reasons”, an Arab League source said.

The summit, titled the ‘Summit of Hope’ and originally scheduled for two full days, was to focus primarily on security and on plans for a joint security force across a region fraught with tension, notably in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

However, pre-summit ministerial talks showed there were sharp divisions over attitudes towards the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as over Turkey’s incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan.

Chaired by Mauritanian President Mohammad Ould Abdul Aziz, the summit opened on Monday inside a large tent in Nouakchott.

The summit communique, which was released to the media ahead of the summit, stressed support for the Palestinian cause, called for joint Arab action on common threats as well as a solution to regional conflicts, including those in Libya, Yemen, Somalia.

Omar Al Bashir, the Sudanese president who is wanted for genocide and war crimes by The Hague-based International Criminal Court, flew into the Mauritanian capital for the talks.

Also present were the heads of state of Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen, Comoros and Djibouti as well as the premiers of Lebanon and Libya.

It is the first Arab League summit hosted by Mauritania since it joined the organisation in 1973.

Foreign ministers on Saturday called for a “definitive solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and welcomed a French and Egyptian initiative to help revive dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Last year Arab League delegates promoted a plan to create a joint Arab military force against Islamist militants and spreading Iranian power. But by Sunday’s summit these plans appeared to have stalled over divisions among Arab states and conflicts of interests.

This year’s summit was due to be held in Morocco, but was moved to Mauritania after Morocco announced that it would not be hosting it.

Arab heads of state attending

- Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir

- Kuwaiti Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad

- Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi

- Mauritanian President Mohammad Ould Abdul Aziz

- Comoran President Azali Assoumani

- Qatari Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani