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Tension at Arab Summit Over Yemen and Over Iranian and Algerian Supply of Drones to Western Sahara Separatists

The Arab League Summit held in Algeria last week was attended by 15 Arab leaders, led by Egypt, Tunisia, and Qatar, along with guests such as UN Secretary General Guterres, the president of Somalia, and the president of Azerbaijan. The heads of states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE chose not to attend, sending their foreign minister, crown prince, and vice president, respectively.  King Abdallah of Jordan was present, but assigned his son Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah as head of the Jordanian delegation. 

This summit, the first in three years due to COVID-19 pandemic, convened in Algiers under the title “Unity,” but that concept was undermined when the King of Morocco made a late decision not to attend after reports emerged that Algeria had coordinated with the Iranian regime to supply Iranian military drones to the Polisario Front, the Western Sahara separatist movement engaged in a decades-long conflict with Morocco. 

Despite the tensions among some Arab states, the summit concluded with calls for more effective mechanisms for Arab cooperation and a consensus to condemn external interference in the internal affairs of Arab nations. The delegates also pledged to reaffirm the “centrality” of the Palestinian issue and its peaceful solution in regional affairs. Concerning the Yemen conflict, the summit emphasized support of “the legitimate Yemeni government” and called for a renewed truce and political solution to the conflict. Though the delegates’ language was indirect concerning Yemen, their implication was that the Houthis are obstructing a resolution to the conflict, and that the Yemeni government that opposes the Houthis should receive international support.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be the host of the next summit, although Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman made a late-breaking decision not to attend the Algiers gathering after the King of Morocco declined to attend presumably because of Algeria’s actions in the Western Sahara. 

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