Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated on Saturday morning the Arab League summit in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, announcing his support for a proposed unified Arab force.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-hamad Al-sabah, who had presided over last year’s summit, gave the floor to Sisi after delivering a short speech.
The situation in the Arab world keeps “worsening and getting more complicated”, Sabah said.
UNIFIED ARAB FORCE
Sisi welcomed in his opening speech a resolution drafted by the Arab foreign ministers on Thursday to form a unified Arab force, due to be voted on during the summit.
The president said the challenges faced by the Arab world necessitate a joint Arab military force to overcome them. He added that the proposed Arab force would adhere to the United Nations and the AL charters, as well as international law.
The unified Arab force would not “compromise the sovereignty of any Arab country”, Sisi said, adding that it would be a tool to face the challenges facing Arab national security.
Sisi said the situation in Yemen is a threat to the Arab world’s national security, adding that a “firm joint Arab movement” was necessary to put an end to this threat.
Saudi Arabia launched military operations in its conflict-torn neighbour Yemen on Thursday as part of a coalition that includes 9 other countries, Egypt among them.
The operations come in response to a request by Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who called for an Arab intervention in his country to halt the Shi’a Houthis’ advances.
The Houthis, a Shi’a rebel movement which has controlled Sanaa since last September, made advances onto the Yemeni South on Wednesday.
Addressing the AL summit, Saudi Arabia’s monarch Salman bin Abdulaziz said the operations will continue until “security and stability” in Yemen are restored.
Yemeni President Hadi also addressed the summit, stressing that his attendance represents the “attendance of Yemen”.
“If only you know the challenges and hardships I faced to attend [the summit] with you,” Hadi said.
Hadi arrived to the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday to attend the Arab League summit, after leaving the southern coastal Yemeni city of Aden, where he has taken refuge since February, for a short stop at Saudi Arabia on Thursday. The president travelled “under Saudi protection”, sources told gulf broadcaster al-Arabiya TV, adding that he will return back to Aden after attending the summit.
Hadi called for the continuation of the Saudi-led operations until “Yemen is rid of the Houthi gangs.”
UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, who attended the summit upon an invitation by the AL, said that the military operations in Yemen came upon the request of the state’s president. He called for a “peaceful” solution to the situation in Yemen, through UN-facilitated negotiations.
Sisi also discussed Egypt’s restive neighbour Libya, where he said the situation is “becoming more dangerous by the day.” The president expressed support to the political solutions proposed by the UN, which strives to form a national unity government in the country.
“Yet, it is not reasonable to ask the Libyan people to live under the fire of terrorism … until a political solution is reached,” Sisi said.
Egypt’s air force conducted in February air strikes which it says hit militant targets in Libya, after the beheading of 20 Coptic Egyptians inside Libya at the hands of militants believed to belong to the Libyan division of the Islamic State fighters.
The UN Security Council unanimously passed on Friday a resolution calling for fighting the threats of terrorism in Libya in coordination with its government, yet without lifting the arms embargo on the conflict-torn country.
Egypt and Libya had called for lifting an arms embargo on the sales of weapons enforced on the Libyan government since 2011 during an emergency Security Council meeting on February 18.
Sisi concluded his speech by stressing that the “future of this nation depends on decisions to be adopted.” He said that the people’s “aspirations for prosperity are mounting” simultaneously with “growing challenges”.
This is the first AL summit to be held in Egypt since the January 2011 uprising which toppled the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.