Summit of folly
Arabic media review

Summit of folly

Saudis boycott meeting on Syria with Iran; Abbas accidentally thanks ‘President Mohammed Hosni’ for Egyptian hospitality

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flashes the victory sign as he attends the 12th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 6 (Photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flashes the victory sign as he attends the 12th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 6 (Photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

The 2013 Organization of Islamic Cooperation, also known as the Islamic Summit, kicked off yesterday in Cairo and was immediately characterized by tremendous folly and severe disagreement over a number of issues plaguing the Arab and Islamic world, all the Arab dailies report.

The conference got off to a rocky start when Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi announced that there would only be a 45-minute break for lunch the first day due to accommodate for the number of meetings and prayer sessions. The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi states that a few representatives stood up and shouted back at him,”This is not enough time for lunch!” Morsi reportedly caved into the demands of his guests and extended lunchtime to a full hour.

“Islamic Summit supports ‘serious’ dialogue in Syria and Saudi Arabia condemns terrorism,” reads the leading headline of the Saudi-owned newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat. According to the article, the need for dialogue in Syria was about the only thing representatives of the countries found consensus on. While a draft resolution is being prepared for Friday that explicitly calls for the beginning of a transfer of power to the Syrian opposition, Iranian and Iraqi delegates, who both fear a Sunni takeover of Syria, are unlikely to lend their support.

This helped convince the Saudi Arabian delegation to boycott a meeting with Egyptian, Turkish, and Iranian representatives about the situation in Syria. Al-Quds Al-Arabi notes that the Saudis’ decision not to join the rest of the “quartet,” the four Muslim countries who are looked on as responsible for reaching an agreement on the Syria question, came about because they didn’t see a point in conversing with the Iranians about their support for the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

This marked a tremendous failure for Morsi, who has been trying to use his country’s hosting of the Islamic Summit as a way of boosting his diplomatic credentials. Morsi has gone to great lengths to thaw relations with the Iran, with whom Egypt severed ties in 1979.

However, his efforts have brought unconvincing results. Although Iran did offer Egypt a loan to help ease its financial crisis, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Egyptian reporters that “the [Egyptian] response to our offer was lukewarm. . . perhaps because external forces are trying to prevent convergence between us.”

Ahmadinejad’s visit has not gone as well as planned. He has been publicly criticized by Sunni religious leaders standing literally right next to him over Iran’s treatment of its Sunni citizens and exertion of power over the Persian Gulf nations. A Syrian citizen tried to throw his shoes at Ahmadinejad as he was exiting a mosque in Islamic Cairo due to his anger over the Iranian president’s support of Assad.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also been making waves at the Islamic Summit for all the wrong reasons. During a public address to Morsi picked up by the Cairo-based Al-Masry Al-Youm, Abbas thanked “Mr. Mohammed Hosni” instead, later correcting himself. Furthermore, during a special session on Palestine chaired by Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Abbas thanked the late Moroccan monarch Mohammed V instead. This caused Moroccan Prime Minister Abelilah Benkirane to nervously jump up and correct him, pointing out that King Mohammed V died in 1961.

Abbas managed to stoke more controversy when he pointedly attacked countries which have chosen to send official delegations to the Gaza Strip to meet with the Hamas leadership there.

The London-based Al-Hayat quotes Abbas as saying that “such visits deepen divisions among the Palestinians. . . There is a difference between providing humanitarian aid to Gaza and the political visits that have occurred.”

Abbas was specifically referring to Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who visited the Gaza Strip in October, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who visited at the end of January. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki canceled his trip to Gaza at Abbas’ request.

Abbas pressed the conference to recognize his sole legitimacy as the representative of the Palestinian people. Despite his not having set foot in Gaza since Hamas’s takeover in 2007, the Palestinian Authority still spends $130 million every month on services there.

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