Egypt and the Arab League
Reviewed by: Wafaa El-houseiny
Translated by: Nayira Salah Eddin
Egypt and The Arab League
Feb, 13,2023- 18:44
Egypt and The Arab League
Although the call for Arab unity has been on the table for several centuries, the idea of establishing a single Arab organization combining all Arab countries was not been clarified until World War II because of the various Arab, regional, and international variables.
On the Arab level, it can be said that the Arab reality was the cornerstone of this historic development. On the one hand, the war was suitable for the growth of national movements and resistance activity against the colonial presence, the thing which was reflected in the independence of an increasing number of Arab states and created the need for establishing a kind of balance between the political powers. On the other hand, the need for unity has been enhanced by awareness of the dangers of the Zionist movement and the intersection of Jewish migration to Palestine with a role to play by the deputizing State …. “Britain” seeking the achievement of the dream of the Jewish state. On the third hand, the increasing contact with the West because of the educational missions led to the openness on some of the political ideas and trends they had in mind, and on top of them was the national idea. On the other hand, it seems that there was a reasonable degree of trade and movement of persons, particularly among the eastern Arab states, in such a way as to provide the material bases for unity in addition to the initial spiritual and cultural foundation.
Regarding the international level, World War II was followed by a transitional stage of the international system’s development. And specifically for Britain, it was important, while analyzing its position on the establishment of the Arab League, to clarify the fact that its role had been complementary or auxiliary and had not been originating or proactive. This is because there has never been a state, whatever its political power in a particular historical era that was capable of blowing the spirit into an idea out of nowhere.
Mustafa al-Nahhas, the Egyptian prime minister, took the initiative and invited both Jamil Mardam, the Syrian prime minister, and Bechara El Koury, the Lebanese National Bloc President, to discuss with them in Cairo, the idea of “ establishing an Arab League to enhance the relation among the joined Arab States”. This was the first time to raised the idea of the Arab League so clearly, then he reaffirmed the Egyptian Government’s willingness to seek the view of Arab Governments on the matter of unity and to hold a conference in order to discuss it. This idea was praised by the governor of Jordan at that time, Prince Abdullah. As a result, a series of bilateral consultations was started between Egypt and the representatives of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen.
When a preparatory committee containing the representatives of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Yemen (in an observer capacity) gathered from the 25th of September to the 7th of October 1994, it preferred the trend calling for the unity of independent Arab States without prejudice to their independence and sovereignty. It also settled on the designation of the association embodying this unity as “ the Arab League” rather than “ Alliance” or “Union”. This is because the first refers to a casual relationship and the second expresses a relationship that encompasses the agreed terms of reference for its conversion to the emerging Arab organization.
In the light of this, Alexandria Protocol, which became the League’s first document, stipulated the following principles:
The Arab League is formed by Arab States that agree to join and have a Council in which the states participating in the league are represented equally.
The mission of the Council of the League is: to take into account the implementation of the agreements concluded between Member States and the holding of periodic meetings to strengthen the links between them and coordinate their political plans in order to achieve cooperation and preserve their independence and sovereignty from any possible political means of aggression, and to consider in general the affairs of the Arab countries.
The Council’s decrees are binding on those who accept them except in such cases where there is a dispute between two countries of the Member States of the League and the parties seek the Council in order to resolve the dispute. In this condition, the Council’s decrees are binding and in force.
There shall be no recourse to force to resolve disputes between two states of the League Arab states or to pursue a foreign policy which is detrimental to the policy of the Arab League or any of its States.
Each Member State of the Arab League may conclude with another State in the Arab League or other special agreements provided that they are not in direct conflict with the texts and spirit of these provisions.
Finally, recognizing the independence and the sovereignty of States joined to the League by their already existing borders. The Protocol also included a special decree on the necessity of respecting the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon. In addition, it included another decree to recognize Palestine as an integral part of the Arab country, and its Arab rights that could not be compromised, without prejudice to peace and independence in the Arab world. The Arab States must support the cause of Palestinian Arabs by working towards their legitimate aspirations and safeguarding their just rights.
At last, the Protocol states that ( a political subcommittee is to be formed immediately by the members of the mentioned Preparatory Committee to prepare a draft statute of the Council of the Arab League and to discuss the political issues in which agreements can be concluded among the Arab States ).
This Protocol was signed by the heads of delegations participating in the Preparatory Committee on October 7, 1944, with the exception of Saudi, and Yemen which signed it on January 3, 1945, and February,5 respectively after having been submitted to both King Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Imam Yahya Hamid.
This Protocol was the main document on the basis of which the charter of the Arab League was drawn up and was prepared jointly by the political subcommittee recommended by the Alexandria Protocol, and the delegates of the Arab states, who signed the Alexandria Protocol, in addition to a general delegate from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the Palestinian parties also attended as an observer. After completing the draft charter as a product of 16 meetings held by the mentioned parties at the headquarters of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry between February,17 and March 3, 1945. The charter was approved at the Palace of Saffron in Cairo on the 19th of February after following some revisions.
The League's charter consisted of a preamble twenty articles, and three special supplements to the first Supplements on Palestine. The League’s Council shall choose a delegate for Palestine to take part in its work until its independence. The second annex is for the cooperation with non-independent Arab countries and therefore not participating in the League’s Council. The third and last annex is for appointing Mr. Abdul Rahman Al Wazeer, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the League’s first Secretary-General for two years. The preamble stated that the related countries had approved the charter in order to support Arab relations and ties within the framework of respect for independence and sovereignty in the interests of the Arab country as a whole.
On March, 22,1945, the delegates of the Arab states signed the charter of The Arab League. The signing session was attended by the representative of the Palestinian parties, and this day “the 22nd of March” of each year became the day of the annual anniversary of the Arab League.
The joint Arab action journey within the framework of the Arab League has witnessed several achievements at the economic and political levels which cannot be overlooked. The Arab League has contributed actively to the liberation of big parts of the Arab world and the liberation of several African and Asian countries. The Arab League also has witnessed throughout its rich history the establishment of different bodies such as Arab Quality Associations like: the Arab Telecommunication union, The Arab Radio Consortium, the signing of several treaties like the Charter of Arab Cultural Unity and the Arab Teacher’s Charter, Arab cooperation agreements in different fields, and the establishment of Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab Academy for Maritime Transport in order to provide Arab human resources in the fields of maritime navigation, the Arab Fund for Technical Aid to African countries, the establishment of councils of ministries of the interior, housing and reconstruction ministries, and Arab electricity ministries, and the promulgation of the Arab Charter on human rights, and the establishment of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Fund following the outbreak of Al-Aqsa uprising was, approval of the joint Arab Media Action Charter, and other dozens of events, councils, attitudes, and resolutions which contributed to the promotion of joint Arab Action, in which Egypt contributed actively and influentially.
Egypt supports the efforts of supporting the Arab League as a key tool for joint Arab Action by providing the necessary capabilities to reform its structures and enable it to perform its role perfectly. This is regarding the development of its established structures and the addition of new ones that will enhance the joint Arab journey, in addition to strengthening the capacity of the Arab League to contain these disputes before they are exacerbated by mechanisms for the prevention of disputes, or managing and settling them peacefully.
Egypt confirms the importance of achieving progress in the Arab economic integration projects and the implementation of actions and policies that liberalize the movement of trade, capital, individual, and technology among Arab countries, as well as confirming the productive input in the development of Arab economies, establishing joint projects, and improving the chances of joint investments which will ultimately lead to the establishment of the Arab and joint market.
Reforming the Arab system needs a unified concept of Arab collective security, the reality of the threats posed to it, the necessary measures for its safety, and discussing the proper ways to give effect to the Arab joint agreements and the frameworks in different fields. Thus within this framework, Egypt attaches great importance to the collective Arab cooperation in the fields of science, technology, education, and culture, as well as the development of bilateral relations between Arab countries in these fields, while accepting gradual and selective curriculum when implementing development and reform processes, taking into account the circumstances of each state.
Developing Arab relations with all great powers helps internationally, regionally, in the east and in the west ( United States, European Union, Federal Russia, People’s China, Japan, India, Brazil, South Africa, and the ASEAN…etc) in creating a kind of balance while meeting the challenges posed by recent international circumstances, as well as taking advantage of the diversity of support opportunities that may be provided by those forces.
In light of these goals, Egypt introduced in July 2003, an initiative to develop the Arab League and activate the joint Arab action. In addition, it supported the decisions of the Arab summit in Tunis in 2004 regarding the Arab reformation. Furthermore, it took part in all the efforts that targeted the reformation and the development of the joint Arab work and its institutions.
The Arab summit held in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on 28, 29 March 2007, in its concluding statement, welcomed the Egyptian working paper submitted to the summit which is about the mechanisms for applying a comprehensive concept of Arab national security under the recent challenges of how to activate Arab national security and protect it from external penetrations through the portal of the region’s local and regional crises.
Egypt took part in most Arab summits held after the founding of the League in March 1945 until 2022
The Inshas Emergency Summit “May 1946” was held at the invitation of the Egyptian king Farouk, in the presence of the seven founding countries of the Arab League: Egypt, eastern Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. It confirmed the Arab people’s right to gain their independence and demanded the cessation of Jewish immigration to Palestine. In addition, it decided to defend Palestine in case of any aggression.
Beirut Emergency Summit “ November 1956” was held following the tripartite aggression against Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Nine Arab presidents participated in this summit called for support Egypt against this aggression, and confirmed Egypt’s sovereignty over the Suez Canal according to the treaty of 1888, and the six principles adopted by the UN Security Council on 13 October 1956.
Cairo Summit “January 1964” the first ordinary Arab summit at the invitation of the late Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser to discuss Israel’s project to convert the waters of the Jordan River and attended by all 13 Member States at that time.
Alexandria Summit “September 1964” was held in Alexandria in the presence of 14 Arab leaders. This Summit called for enhancing the Arab defense capabilities. It also welcomed the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its accreditation as a representative of the Palestinian people. In addition, it called for Arab cooperation in the field of atomic research for peaceful purposes, as well as in the economic, cultural, and media fields.
Casablanca Summit “ September 1956” in which 12 Arab States as well as Palestine Liberation Organization participated.
Khartoum Summit “ August 1967” was held following the defeat of 1967, or what was known as the setback. It was also known as The Summit of Three Nos directed to Israel: “ No reconciliation, No negotiation, and No recognition”. This summit was held in the presence of all Arab countries except Syria.
Rabat Summit “ December 1969” in which 14 Arab countries participated. It called for an end to the military operations in Jordan between Palestinian fighters and the Jordanian armed forces and support for the Palestinian revolution.
Cairo Emergency Summits “ September 1970” was held following armed clashes in Jordan between Palestinian organizations and the Jordanian Government, which was known as the Black September events, and was boycotted, by Syria, Iraq, Algeria, and Morocco.
Algeria Summit “ November 1973” was held in the presence of 16 countries at the invitation of Syria and Egypt after the October 1973 war, and was boycotted by Libya and Iraq. In addition, this Summit witnessed Mauritania Join the Arab League.
Rabat Summit “October 1974” was held with the participation of all Arab countries along with Somalia, which participated for the first time.
The Emergency Riyadh Summit “October 1976” was held at the invitation of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in order to discuss the crisis in Lebanon and ways to resolve it. This Summit included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Syria, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Cairo Summit “October 1976” was attended by 14 countries to complete the discussion of the Lebanese crisis which started at the Six-party Conference in Riyadh.
Casablanca Emergency Summit “May 1989” returned Egypt to the membership of the Arab League, and Lebanon, in which there was a conflict between two governments, was absent.
Baghdad Emergency Summit “May 1990”, Lebanon and Syria did not attend this Summit which discussed threats to Arab national security and measures against it. It also condemned the intensive Jewish immigration to Israel.
Cairo Emergency Summit “ August 1990” was held following Iraq’s aggression against Kuwaiti territory, and it was not attended by Tunis.
Cairo Emergency Summit “June 1996” was an extraordinary summit after the arrival of Yemen under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu to the Israeli power and the fate of the peace operation, attended by all Arab countries except Iraq.
Cairo Emergency Summit “October 2000” was held following the violence that erupted against Palestinians after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon entered the Temple Mount. It was attended by 14 Arab presidents, kings, and princes. However, Libya was represented by a diplomatic delegation that withdrew on the second day of the summit.
Amman Summit “March 2001” which was attended by 14 Arab leaders. It confirmed the commitment to severing relations with countries that transport their embassies to Jerusalem or recognize it as the capital of Israel.
Beirut Summit “ March 2002” was one of the most important summits in its history. This is because it adopted the initiative of the Saudi Crown Prince, at that time, who was Abdullah bin Abdulaziz on the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was attended by 9 Arab presidents.
Sharm el-Sheikh Summit “ 2003” chaired by King Hamad bin Isa al-khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain. It approved a unified position by rejecting an American attack on Baghdad. It was attended by 11 Arab Leaders and 11 representatives of the remaining governments.
Tunis Summit “ May 2004” was attended by 13 presidents and 9 representatives of Arab governments. In this summit, leaders agreed to make amendments to the Charter of the Arab League for the first time since 1945. Arab leaders approved a “historic” pledge to launch reforms. In addition, they affirmed the importance of the Arab initiative and the Quartet’s road map stated by the committee on the Middle East. Furthermore, it condemned the separation wall in the West Bank and confirmed the rejection of the settlement of Palestinians.
Algeria Summit “March 2005” which was attended by 13 Arab governors, and at which “ the Algeria Declaration” was issued. In this Declaration, Arab leaders stressed the necessity of activating the Arab peace initiative rejected by Israel on the same day.
Khartoum Summit “March 2006” was attended by 11 leaders, and approved the establishment of the Arab Peace and Security Council. In addition, it adopted a statement to make the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, rejected Ehud Olmert’s plan to unilaterally demarcate the border with Palestinian territories, and expressed its support for Sudan in Darfur issue and offered its financial support for the African Union forces in Darfur.
Riyadh Summit “March 2007” attended by 17 Arab leaders. This summit decided again to activate the Arab peace initiative five years after its launch and called on Israel to accept it.
Damascus Summit “March 2008” in which 11 Leaders took part in and called for the overcoming of Arab disagreements. DR. Mofid Shehab, the minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils, participated in this summit on behalf of the president of the Republic.
Doha Summit “March 2009” was attended by 17 leaders and rejected the Criminal Court’s decree which issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir. Dr. Mofid Shehab, the minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils, participated in this summit on behalf of the president of the Republic.
Sirte Summit “October 2010” was held with the participation of 15 governors and called for an Arab action plan to save Jerusalem and preserve the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Dr. Ahmed Nazif participated in this summit on behalf of President Hosni Mubarak.
Baghdad Summit “March 2012” was held in the presence of 9 leaders and adopted a comprehensive vision for reformation in the Arab world. Mohamed Kamel Amr, the Egyptian minister of foreign affairs, participated in this summit on behalf of Field Marshal Mohammed Sayed Tantawi.
Doha Summit “March 2013” in which 15 presidents participated and approved the establishment of the Arab Court of Human Rights and the “Support for Jerusalem” Fund.
Kuwait Summit “March 2014” was attended by 13 Arab leaders of kings, princes, and presidents. It is the first Arab summit held in Kuwait since its formal joining to the Arab League on July 20, 1961
Sharm el-Sheikh Summit “March 2015” was held with the participation of 15 Arab leaders and it approved the formation of a joint Arab Military Force. This Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh 2015 was the first summit attended by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as a representative of Egypt. In the final statement of the summit, president el-Sisi announced the adoption of the principle of the establishment of a joint Arab military force provided that a high-level group shall be established to study all aspects of its establishment.
Nouakchott Summit “ July 2016” was held in the presence of 7 governors. The merger of the Arab Economic and Social Summit with the ordinary Arab Summit was approved once every four years. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi mandated the then Prime Minister Sharif Ismail to head the Egyptian delegation during the 27th session of the Arab summit held in Mauritanian, Nouakchott.
Amman Summit “March 2017” in which 15 governors took part, and demanded that the world countries not transfer their embassies to Jerusalem or recognize it as the capital of Israel. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stressed during his meeting on the seriousness of terrorism that faces the Arab nation. In addition, he confirmed the necessity of reaching a political solution in Syria, while rejecting the military intervention and highlighting the Syrian and Libyan crises.
Saudi Zahran Summit “April 2018” the Arab summit which was launched to discuss ways of enhancing the course of joint Arab action and address the challenges and threats facing the Arab region. President el-Sisi who was the leader of The Egyptian delegation in the summit’s actions confirmed that Arab national security faces unprecedented challenges, stressing that we need a comprehensive strategy to address existing national security threats.
Mecca Summit “May 2019” the Summit-level Council of the Arab League held an extraordinary session in order to discuss the serious repercussions of the attack by Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist militias on the two pumping stations of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in addition to its attacks on the commercial vessels in the territorial water of the United Arab Emirates.
Algeria Summit “November 2022”, the first summit meeting of leaders of Arab countries began in the Algerian capital after a nearly three-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, following an agreement by some Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel. This two-day summit was held under the theme of “ Reunification”. During this summit, many important issues were discussed, including food security and Palestinian reconciliation. President Sisi who led the Egyptian delegation in the work of the summit, confirmed in his speech Egypt’s constant desire to support brothering countries,” And I say,…. Trust our Arab nation…. It has a long history and a rich and extended cultural contribution….. In addition, trust that Egypt will always continue to possess the ingredients for a more stable and prosperous future, foremost among which is your determination, mind and help…..Trust that Egypt will always keep in mind the cohesion, preservation, and protection of the Arab entity. Moreover, Egypt will always be present in support of you and will keep its doors open for all Arab youth in order to defend their present and the future of the upcoming generations.
Indeed, Egypt’s relationship with the Arab League is historic, going back to before its establishment. “Alexandria Protocol” was the basic document on which the Arab League Charter was based, and which was signed according to the consultations convened by Mustafa al-Nahas. The Arab League Charter was approved at the Egyptian Foreign Office in March 1945 and appointed its first Secretary-General, the Egyptian diplomat Abel Rahman Azam Basha, and then seven Egyptian diplomats as the secretariat of the League out of eight secretaries-generals( Abdel Rahman Azam, Mohammed AbdulKhaliq Hasouna, Mahmoud Riyad, Ahmed issmat Abdulmagid, Amr Musa, Nabil al-Arabi, Ahmed Abu al-Gheit.
There is no doubt that each of this dignified people had his contributions, which history will not forget, and his pioneering role in enhancing the role of the Arab League and developing its working mechanisms according to his considerable diplomatic experience, in addition to maintaining its working mechanisms without interruption, even during the darkest moments of the Arab region.
Egypt’s belief in the role of the Arab League is unwavering and will not change. This is because, in its view, the recent circumstances and external interventions in the Arab matters call for greater coordination among the members of the League and operationalization of existing partnership and cooperation frameworks. In addition, it needs the creation of new mechanisms responsive to challenges, including the Arab joint force proposed by Egypt, which aims to create an effective operational mechanism to address the inherent challenges that the Arab system faces. The multilateral framework that brings Arab people from the ocean to the Gulf is regardless of the strength of coordination at the bilateral level. In addition, the Arab League and the operationalization of its role become more urgent in the following phase to decrease the external interventions, whether from the neighboring countries or from other external forces.
In conclusion, Egypt has always stressed its commitment to support the Arab League to remain the Arab House in which all brothers meet in times of distress and adversity to defend the interests of the Arab nation against any threats to it.
Arab League website.
Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs blog.
General Information Authority Website.