The Jeddah Summit: Are reconciliations possible?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Saudi Arabia hosted three major summits within the span of only ten months. The first one was the Security and Development Summit held in Jeddah with the participation of six GCC countries plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq and US President Joe Biden; the second one was a two-rounds Chinese summit in the Saudi capital, Riyadh: a round with Gulf countries and another with Arab countries; and the third one is the recent Arab League summit in Jeddah.

We can see how these events are linked to one another.

The Jeddah Security and Development Summit sought to develop a regional and international dynamic that boosts peaceful coexistence and mutual interests. It focused on strengthening security in the region, including naval lanes in the Red Sea and the Gulf. The Riyadh summit, in which Chinese President Xi Jinping participated, focused on economic cooperation and regional stability and later culminated in a Saudi-Iranian agreement.

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What can the Arab League achieve in the Jeddah summit? The bloc is gathering in a bid to ramp up a push for concrete resolutions that can end the long-simmering tensions that have been raging in the region for the past twelve years.

However, based on the history and outcomes of Arab summits, one can justifiably question whether this aspiration is realistic.

We can ask the Saudi hosts, is ending regional clashes a realistic endeavor?

For one, Riyadh has deep, and sometimes violent, rivalries with Iran and with the Houthis in Sanaa, and it had tensions with Qatar and Turkey in the past.

However, over the past three years, some ties have been restored and a certain rapprochement has been achieved. As for Iran– with whom Saudi Arabia has the longest, most complex, and most difficult discord -, conflict settlement is underway as part of putting the Beijing Agreement into motion.

Appeasement is clearly the main motivation of the Jeddah summit. Saudi Arabia is presenting itself as a model, having adopted a realistic approach to dealing with its rivals, such as Iran, as well as the Houthis despite the nine year-long war and bloodshed.

The Kingdom accepted to negotiate with its adversaries, and it successfully reached agreements that no one thought were possible not so long ago.

Seeking reconciliation is a sincere desire that does not invalidate the pain and suffering of those who refuse to reconcile, nor should this endeavor come at their expense. Libyans, Syrians, Somalis, Sudanese, and others, as well as regimes and opposition parties, can decide whether to follow in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia, accept to give up some, or all, of their expectations, and reconcile; or continue in the opposite thorny, bloody, and painful direction.

Should they choose to stay on the path of war and bloodshed, there is no guarantee that they will ever achieve their goal - history and reality today are a testament to that.

The Arab summits, including the recent Jeddah summit, do not dictate their resolutions to the participating, sovereign countries. These gatherings are diplomatic moves aiming to reach collective consensus that serves all twenty-two member states.
The turmoil seen in the Arab region today is the strongest of its kind since World War two that was raging among various regional and foreign powers.

Constant tension and violence are gnawing away at the capabilities of our countries, depriving generation after generation of education and opportunities, denying them the joy of the present, and leaving them without a future. The sphere of battles is widening every year, threatening to spread further, and has now reached Sudan.

I genuinely hope that the Arab Summit will be a culmination of the American and Chinese summits, with promising practical steps toward a regional dynamic based on self-determination, and which will finally mark an end to all conflicts, and usher in a new era of security and development.

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