Arab economic summit opens in Lebanon amid absence, rifts

Arab economic summit opens in Lebanon amid absence, rifts

BEIRUT (Rahnuma): The fourth Arab Economic and Social Development Summit on Sunday kicked off in Lebanon’s capital Beirut.

“We meet here to deal with economic challenges facing our countries … We do not want to discuss the reasons for wars. We want to address their consequences for the economy and growth of our countries,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun said while delivering the opening speech.

Lots of refugees are being hosted in countries, including Lebanon, which are suffering much economically, Aoun said, adding that the summit will issue a final statement about refugee crisis and its impact on economy.

The president also suggested the creation of an Arab fund for the reconstruction of countries that have experienced wars and destruction.

“We wished this summit to be an occasion to bring together all the Arabs,” the president said while regretting over the absence of “the brotherly kings and presidents who have their own excuses for not showing up.”

Although at least eight heads of states were expected here, only Qatari emir and Mauritanian president are joining the event.

The other participant countries have sent their second-level and third-level ministerial delegations.

Rifts among Arab states over the absence of Syria and Libya have overshadowed the Beirut summit.

Syria is not invited to the summit organized by the Arab League (AL) as its AL membership was suspended in November 2011 due to the rising casualties in the violent clashes during anti-government protests.

Ahead of the summit, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil openly called on AL to re-admit Syria while AL chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said that AL member states have not reached a consensus on Syria’s return to the 22-member body.

Libya’s seat was also empty as it protests over the summit after supporters of the Lebanese Amal Movement tore the Libyan flag in Beirut.

The Arab economic summit, held at the head of state level to address issues of economic and social development among member states, is a prelude to the AL summit which will take place in Tunisia in March.

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