The first Arab League summit will take place on Nov. 1-2 in the capital of Algeria, marking the 31st annual gathering of heads of state in the Arab world since 2019.

While there are not many expectations for potential outcomesWashington Institute fellows Sabina Henneberg and David Schenker noted: “The event will likely mirror previous ones by highlighting policy divisions among Arab governments, especially if not all heads of state attend.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, appointed prime minister last month “according to a royal decree,” will skip the summit for health reasons. Five other Arab leaders, including the presidents of the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon, Kuwait’s emir, the Bahraini king and the Sultan of Oman are not expected to attend the summit. 

Algeria has sought to boost its profile as a country to be reckoned with on the foreign policy front and has been preparing intensively for the summit – most notably, according to Henneberg and Schenker, by seeking to prepare a united Arab front against Israel.

“Algerian officials have devoted significant efforts over the past year in preparation for hosting this Arab Summit,” the fellows wrote. “Most notably, they have convened multiple reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian leadership camps in order to present a more united front against Israel, even reaching an agreement earlier this month among fourteen factions.”

“Although this accord has been widely dismissed as yet another empty promise that will not be implemented, Algiers sees the deal as a way to promote the notion that it is furthering Arab unity,” Henneberg and Schenker stated. 

Rather than furthering Arab unity, however, it is expected that a number of issues to be broached at the summit will expose deep divisions in the Arab world.  

One of the top issues producing Arab disagreement is the status of Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad. Since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in 2011 and al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, Syria has been suspended from the Arab League, however, Algeria would like to see him brought back.

While more than half a million Syrians have been killed since 2011 and nearly 7 million have fled the country, several Arab countries in addition to Algeria have taken steps to reestablish relations with Syria, such as Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and the UAE.

The United States has sought to dissuade its Arab allies from reestablishing diplomatic connections with Syria, and this U.S. opposition could lead to summit participants dropping out or distancing themselves from the issue.

Another matter that could lead to division is Algeria’s wish to warm ties with Ethiopia – a move that would be unpopular with Egypt, as Egypt and Ethiopia have a dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). 

A third concern could be the long-standing dispute between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara. In 2020, then-U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, a quid pro quo for Morocco’s normalization of ties with Israel; a year later, in August 2021, Algeria cut diplomatic ties with Morocco. 

Algeria hosts and supports the Polisario Front – a group that claims independence and sovereignty in Western Sahara – which has been outlawed in the parts of Western Sahara under Moroccan control.

In their analysis, Henneberg and Schenker wrote that they expect there will be some consensus at the summit on a couple of issues:

On the Palestinian issue, it is expected that “the summit will result in multiple non-binding, non-actionable Arab League statements in support of the Palestinian cause.” 

“Even states that have signed onto the Abraham Accords or other normalization efforts with Israel will presumably provide rhetorical support to the Palestinian cause in the context of a League gathering,” the fellows wrote.

Attending members are also expected to criticize Turkey’s military operations or interference in several Arab states – including Iraq, Syria and Libya – and to issue statements against Iran, especially as it relates to the regime’s terrorist proxies operating in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

It is possible that the subject of oil production will be discussedfollowing the OPEC+ decision in recent weeks to cut production by 2 million barrels per day. The cuts are scheduled to begin in November as an international energy crisis continues to grow.

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