Arab foreign ministers attend 151st biennial meeting in Cairo
Adel El Mahrouky

On Wednesday Arab foreign ministers flew to Cairo for their regular bi-annual meeting. The political gathering was dedicated to set the agenda for the upcoming Arab League summit scheduled at the end of March in Tunisia. 

Numerous conflicts are on the Arab League's plate, however the reinstatement of Syria overshadowed the meetings. In 2018 the organization said it could look into bringing Damascus back among its member states. Algeria and Iraq were among the first countries clearly demanding Syria's return. 

Algeria and Iraq call for reinstating Syria in the Arab League

"My country once again confirms the importance for Syria, one of the founding states to the Arab League, to once again defend the issues of its region... That will help in the Arab initiative to resolve the crisis and achieve the aspired national reconciliation," said Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel in his opening speech. 

Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel speaks at the meeting in Cairo. /CGTN Photo

Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel speaks at the meeting in Cairo. /CGTN Photo

A few days ahead of the Cairo meeting, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubair announced that it was too early to restore ties with Syria. The kingdom is an influential political power in the Middle East. Without its approval, Syria cannot go back to the league. 

The league's secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit, however, stressed that no state has officially asked to include Syria's reinstatement in the discussions. 

"The issue hasn't been discussed at all, whether through a documents or a motion. All what has been discussed is a general discussion about the Syrian crisis and providing aid to the Syrian people, so they can overcome this conflict," said Aboul Gheit. Arab foreign ministers reaffirmed their support for political dialogue among Syrians, and asserted that humanitarian aid in conflict zones are crucial.

Experts however believe that the organization needs more than Saudi's support for Syria. 

Syrian's seat has been frozen since 2011, following the break of the civil war. /CGTN Photo

Syrian's seat has been frozen since 2011, following the break of the civil war. /CGTN Photo

"There are movements among the league's members to bring back Syria. Iraq was quite vocal in this meeting clearly asking to bring Syria's membership in the Arab League, and so did Algeria. Tunisia seems to be soon using its good ties to push for that. Saudi saying is important but it's not enough. The Arab League needs consensus among its members so that Syria may once again return," said Hala Sheha, an analyst of Arab Affairs with the Egyptian Al Nahar newspaper. 

A ministerial committee to counter Israeli activities in Africa

A lasting solution for the Palestinian crisis has been one of the main topics discussed in Cairo. Arabs have been vowing to normalize ties with Israel in return to a two-state solution, an initiative the organization took in 2002. But as the peace process has been stalled, Arabs have decided to work against Israel's regional influence. 

This week's meetings have seen the birth of the Arab Ministerial Committee counter Israel's "expansion" in Africa. Chaired by Saudi Arabia, the committee reached what Aboul Gheit described as important milestones. 

Ahmed Aboul Gheit (L), secretary-general of the Arab League. /CGTN Photo

Ahmed Aboul Gheit (L), secretary-general of the Arab League. /CGTN Photo

At the press conference following the meetings, he said "Concerning the Israeli penetration in Africa, we've reached many recommendations, which I see are extremely positive. There is a call for a routine meeting for the directors of African Affairs in Arab foreign ministries. And another call for Arab ambassadors in African countries to meet frequently and report to their capitals and the Arab League."

Foreign ministers have vowed to support political solutions in Yemen and Libya. They've also discussed Iran's influence in the region, condemning its support to the Houthis in Yemen. 

The ministers have also set the discussion agenda for the upcoming Arab Summit scheduled in Tunisia later in March.