Arab leaders mute on Syria strikes at Saudi summit

Dubai—Leaders at the Arab League summit have failed to discuss the US-led strikes that came as a result of the “criminal” alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The summit took place in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, a day after the coordinated attacks by the US, UK and France on three sites allegedly linked to the production of chemical weapons in Syria.

According to a summit spokesman, the leaders were to discuss the Syrian conflict but not the strikes that targeted the sites near Damascus as well as in the province of Homs.

The leaders called for an international probe while condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after the summit.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar have previously issued statements in support of the action while Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon expressed concern.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has denied using or possessing chemical weapons, was not present at the meeting after the country was suspended from the group in 2011.

Marwan Bishara, a senior political analyst at the pan-Arab news channel, Al Jazeera described the gathering a ‘bottomless summit’. “It was “odd” that the recent strikes in Syria were not on the agenda.

“It couldn’t get more odd,” he said. “It’s what you call a bottomless summit,” Bishara said.

Qatar blockade not discussed

The summit  the first since a major diplomatic dispute between Qatar and some its Gulf neighbours broke out also failed to discuss the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain – all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, 2017, and imposed a land, sea and air embargo, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”. Qatar has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister, said Qatar was not on the agenda because “it’s not a big issue”.

“It’s not a big problem,” he said. “It’s a very, very small problem.”

While Qatar’s emir did not attend the summit, the country’s Arab League representative was present at the meeting.

“We’ve never seen the Arab world in such bad shape with leadership not able to cope with the challenges facing the Arab world, so much so that most of the points of contention that the Arab leaders don’t agree to were not put on the agenda and the ones that they agreed to were put on the agenda,” said Al Jazeera’s Bishara.

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