Saudi Arabia to host next summit in May, Arab League says

League spokesman says the kingdom agreed to host the meeting on May 19

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit gestures as he talks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon November 20, 2017. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
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Saudi Arabia has agreed to host the next Arab League summit in May, the Cairo-based bloc announced on Sunday night.

Hossam Zaki, the league's assistant secretary general, said the decision was made after consultations between the league's chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit and the Saudi government.

The summit will be held on May 19, Mr Zaki said.

"The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has stated its welcome for hosting the summit on the aforementioned date," a League statement said.

The last Arab League summit was held in Algiers in November last year.

The return of Syria to the Arab League a decade after its membership was suspended would probably be high on the agenda of the summit, along with relations with Iran.

Syria's membership was suspended over its government's brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters during a 2011 uprising. The uprising later became a ruinous civil war.

This month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said increased engagement with Syria might pave the way for its return to the Arab League as ties thaw after more than a decade of isolation.

Consensus was building in the Arab world that isolating Syria was not working and that dialogue with Damascus was needed, particularly to address its humanitarian situation, he said.

But Prince Faisal said it was "too early to discuss" its return just yet.

"An engagement in order to address these concerns is necessary. And that may well lead eventually to Syria returning to the Arab League … but for now, I think it's too early to discuss," he said in London.

The next summit was also likely to focus on relations with Iran, with whom many Arab nations have had fraught relations since the 1979 revolution.

Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed this month to restore diplomatic ties severed in 2016. Iran later said it would like to improve ties with Egypt, another regional powerhouse.

Updated: March 27, 2023, 4:10 AM