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Diplomatic snubs exchanged at Baghdad summit on Syria

Published time: March 29, 2012 00:17
Edited time: March 29, 2012 04:17

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby (seated, 2nd L) and Libya's Economy Minister Ahmad al-Kushali (2nd R) attend an Arab economy, finance and trade ministers meeting as part of the Arab League Summit in Baghdad March 27, 2012. (Reuters / Ali Haider / Pool)

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Top Arab League officials are meeting in Baghdad to try and reach consensus on the crisis in Syria. However, the meeting has been marred by a diplomatic row between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, who disagree on the issue.

­On Wednesday, attendees produced a draft resolution supporting the six-point plan proposed by UN-Arab League Syrian envoy Kofi Annan, and called for a ceasefire in the country. While it voiced support for the Syrian people's “legitimate aspirations to freedom and democracy,” it also rejected foreign intervention.

But cobbling up the resolution did prove to be somewhat difficult as the participants disagreed on a course of action in Syria. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have been pushing for military intervention and arming the opposition. Host country Iraq, on the other hand, has been opposed to intervention and has been more in favor of a peaceful resolution.

In the meantime, a behind-the-scenes diplomatic row between Iraq and Saudi Arabia has complicated matters even further. An Arab League source reported that Saudi Arabia and Qatar wanted Iraq to invite representatives of the Syrian opposition. When Iraq did not do so, Saudi Arabia responded by sending its Arab League ambassador instead of its foreign minister to the summit – an in-your-face snub in diplomatic terms, as the ambassador ranks significantly lower than the foreign minister. Qatar and Egypt also refrained from sending top ranking diplomatic officials to the summit.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari admitted that the summit will offer “nothing new,” but will complement international efforts to help bring about a solution to the crisis. While he did say that the summit will not call on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, he also remarked that Iraq “could no longer remain neutral.” He went on to say that the conflict was heading towards “internationalization,” and that the Arab League has already done all it could to resolve the conflict.

The Arab League summit is an annual summit of the organization, and this year's is the first to be held in the Iraqi capital for over 20 years.

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