Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak gave an indication that he may not attend next month’s Arab Summit due to the interference of Syria into Lebanon’s politics. In an interview broadcast initially in Bahrain, Mubarak said that the political crisis in Lebanon had its roots in Damascus, and that Bashar Assad needs to end his interference. Otherwise, the summit would be pointless:
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Syria was part of the problem in Lebanon, calling on Damascus to help resolve the 15-month crisis before hosting an Arab summit next month.
“The summit will be held in Syria and Syria is linked to the Lebanese problem. Therefore I hope that Syria would solve the problem,” Mubarak said in remarks aired on Al Arabiya television on Tuesday.
“We should not be (in Damascus) resolving a problem that Syria is a party to,” Mubarak said during a visit to Bahrain as part of tour of Gulf Arab countries aimed at unifying positions ahead of the annual Arab League summit. …
“I hope the Arab summit is held with full force (attendance). But there are problems such as the Lebanon problem which is a fundamental one,” said Mubarak, whose country and regional power Saudi Arabia have been leading mediation efforts to help Siniora’s government resolve the standoff.
Mubarak becomes the second Arab head of state to hint at his absence at the summit. Earlier, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has let it be known that he will not attend the event, either. The withdrawal of two key states will undermine any diplomatic efforts at the summit. Their absence will also humiliate Syria and Bashar Assad, who already has troubles with the other Arab states over his alliance with the Iranians.
Arab leaders usually use more subtle language in their dealings with each other than with outsiders. Mubarak’s blunt recrimination will sting all the more, and it could motivate other Arab states to skip the Damascus meeting. They have more ties to Saudi Arabia and Egypt than with Syria, and they also see the Iranian-Syrian terror client Hezbollah as a potential threat to their own power.
Assad may find it useful to expedite the presidential selection process in Lebanon after this interview got bounced around the region by al-Arabiya. We will shortly see how seriously Assad wants this summit to succeed, and to reflect a little pan-Arab brotherhood on his regime.