What is the Arab League?

What is the Arab League?

What is the Arab League?

Answers to your questions about the news.
March 26 2002 2:58 PM

What Is the Arab League?

This Wednesday and Thursday, delegates to the Arab League summit in Beirut, Lebanon, will discuss Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's Middle East peace initiative. What is the Arab League?

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The League of Arab States, as it is formally known, was founded in 1945 and considers itself the world's oldest regional organization. According to its Web site, its aims are "maximum integration among the Arab countries through coordination of their activities in the political sphere as well as in the fields of economics, social services, education, communications, development, technology and industrialization." The league has 22 members: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Egypt's membership was suspended in 1979 after it signed a peace treaty with Israel, but it was readmitted in 1989 and now dominates the organization, along with Saudi Arabia.

It has been almost impossible for members to agree on anything other than opposition to the state of Israel. The PLO was founded at the league's 1964 summit, and in the 1967 meeting, just three months after the Six Day War, the league rejected an Israeli peace proposal that would have returned the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria. In doing so, it established the "three nos" policy: no to recognition of Israel, no to negotiations with Israel, and no to peace with Israel. According to the Jerusalem Post, "the Khartoum conference led to another generation of bloodshed in the Middle East." In the Cold War years, the league was divided between Soviet-affiliated states and Western allies, and there are also longstanding splits between the league's monarchies and its republics. During the 1990s, there were no Arab League summits because of lingering resentments between Kuwait and Iraq.

The Arab League has been somewhat revitalized by the appointment of Egyptian diplomat Amr Moussa as secretary-general in May 2001. Moussa pledged to focus on economic cooperation with the aim of making the league more like the European Union or Mercosur, however, since only about 8 percent of the Arab states' trade is with other Arab nations, there seems little hope for a common market.