Fifty years on, the OIC’s Islamic summit convenes in Mecca

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz will chair the 14th Islamic Summit Conference on May 31 in Mecca, a longstanding gathering of heads of state that dates back 50 years.

The summit convenes every three years to make decisions about how to confront and contain conflicts and crises in Muslim-majority countries. This year it coincides with two emergency summits- The Arab League and GCC summits- called for by King Salman amid heightened tensions with Iran.


Islamic summit: A brief history

On September 25, 1969, representatives from 24 Muslim-majority countries held a summit in Rabat, Morocco, in response to the burning of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Fifty years later, the summit still regularly convenes, with the latest set to take place in Mecca later this week.

The historic Rabat meeting resulted in a decision to establish the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which was designated to handle the Islamic Summit, turning it into a permanent and fundamental executive body.

The highest body of the OIC consists of kings, heads of state, and governments of member states, who meet every three years to deliberate, make decisions, and advise on all issues related to Muslims around the world.

Iran and the Islamic summit

At the 13th Summit, held in Istanbul in 2016, a statement was issued stressing the need for “cooperative relations” between Iran and Islamic countries, including “abstaining from the use or threat of force.”

Iran was the sole country to be called on by the other 56 state members to establish “good neighborly relations” with its surrounding regions. However, between that summit and the forthcoming one, Tehran has expanded its hostilities to three countries: Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Tehran was also condemned for its “interference in the internal affairs of other member states of the Organization, including Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia” and for “continuing its support for terrorism.”

Voice of 1.5 billion Muslims

The OIC is the second largest intergovernmental institution, just after the UN, with 57 member states from four continents. It is the voice of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.

In 1970, the first Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers was held in Jeddah, culminating in the decision to establish a Permanent Secretariat based in Jeddah itself, headed by a Secretary of the OIC.

Between 1969 and 2016, there were 13 Islamic Summits, with seven held for emergencies in different capitals of the Islamic world, including Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey.

The Palestinian cause and support for Somalia, Djibouti, poor Islamic countries, and oppressed minorities have been permanent points in the Islamic Summit’s resolutions during its history.

On two occasions, the summit adopted resolutions to condemn two of its members, Iraq and Iran.

In 1991, it condemned the “illegal acts committed by the forces of the Iraqi regime” during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, as well as Iraq’s “brutal aggression” against Saudi Arabia.

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