Saturday, March 8, 2008

Iran, Gulf Ministers in Damascus

Foreign Minister of Iran, Qatar, Oman and Syria held an extraordinary meeting at Damascus airport today amid signs of trouble for the upcoming Arab League summit scheduled to be held in the Syrian capital at the end of March.

On Tuesday, a number of Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo to hammer out differences. There were concerns over Syrian reluctance to invite the sitting Lebanese government to the summit. Lebanon, which has been without a president since November, could be represented at the meeting by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a staunch critic of Syria. The Syrian foreign minister announced after the meeting in Cairo that Lebanon will be officially invited to attend.

Saudi Arabia leads a large group of Arab countries who object to Syrian role in Lebanon and the country’s close relationship with Iran. Syria wanted the Saudis to attend to avoid a fiasco where the Saudis and a number of Persian Gulf countries would boycott the summit.

Oman and Qatar are the only Gulf states which maintain relatively close ties to Syria. Their presence in Damascus today along with the foreign ministers of Iran and Syria is an attempt to devise a coordinated policy to salvage the Damascus Summit.

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