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Summit of Beirut: Arab leaders discuss free trade, refugees from Syria | News

Beirut, Lebanon – The Arab Economic Summit of Economic and Social Development started the capital of Lebanon, eclipsed by political shooting and poor assistance among Arab heads of state, many of which came out at the last minute.

The twenty countries that participated in the summit on Sunday aim to make a joint statement on a 29-item agenda ranging from discussions on an Arab free trade zone and the economic effect of Syrian refugees in host countries.

The summit takes place amid growing political and economic instability in Lebanon, which houses hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

The economic meeting is a prelude to the top of the Royal Arab League that takes place in Tunisia in March.

The mayor of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, left Beirut after a few hours attending the summit on Sunday morning. "The Emir was here alone to attend the opening session, listen to President Michel Aoun's speech and observe his support for Lebanon, "the Lebanese president of the Lebanese president Al Jazeera told reporters on Sunday.

The brief visit unchecked the speculations that circulated in the Lebanese media this Saturday that Qatar would compromise the coverage of all the costs of the summit and a $ 1,000 million deposit in the Central Bank of Lebanon.

In his opening speech, President Aoun reiterated calls to the "safe return" of Syrian refugees to their homeland "without linking this return."

In addition to Qatar's chief of state, only the president of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, joined Aoun at the official summit meeting. Other countries sent prime ministers and foreign affairs ministers as representatives at the meeting.

The dome was marked by divisions between Lebanese politicians and regional leaders on the reintegration of Syria to the Arab League of 22 countries and on the status of Syrian refugees in host countries.

Although it has a lower profile than the top of the Arab League, the meeting has attracted the heads of state in previous years since its launch in 2009.

But after Libya decided to boycott the summit after an incident that saw members of the Amal party – a Hezbollah ally backed by Iran – dropped and burned their flag near summit last week, leaders' assistance began to crash.

Amal, a Shiite group, opposes Lebanon having relations with Libya because of the disappearance of the founder of the Imam Musa Sadr movement during an official visit to the country in 1978 and then under the mandate of Muammar Gaddafi.

Refugees and war

Speaking at the opening of the summit, Aoun said that Lebanon would suggest solutions for the return of safe refugees in the final statement of the meeting.

"The president must issue a statement on refugees and displaced people in Arab countries today. He is also expected to start an initiative on reconstruction in devastated countries," said General Director of the Lebanese presidency, Antoine Choukair, to Al Jazeera.

President Aoun hopes his initiative will help establish a financing structure to rebuild Arab countries devastated by wars. The discussion during pre-summit meetings focused on the reconstruction of Somalia and Yemen, although the background is expected to include Syria as well.

An important point of contention before the summit focused on whether Syria should be reinstated as a member of the Arab League after the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, taking control of most of his country torn by war.

While Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called for the return of Syria to the Arab League during the pre-summit meeting on Friday, the group's secretary general, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, told reporters at a press conference that he had no agreement on the turn of Syria.

Part of the containment around Syria also relates to article 13 of the summit proposal statement, which deals with the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.

While Lebanon, hosted by hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, called on Friday to return to Syria, other countries were divided into the wording of the article with some Arab ministers who insisted that this discussion should be linked to a political solution in Syria .

Economic challenges of Lebanon

The summit takes place amid the growing political and economic instability in the Mediterranean country.

A group of civil society and the Lebanese Communist Party plan to organize a march at noon from Babir Sunday, a private area of ​​Beirut, to the Ministry of Finance.

The protesters say they want to end the country's serious economic situation, which they believe the summit will do little to ease.

"We are sending a message to potentials to tell them they are fully responsible for Lebanon's economic breakdown," Al Jazeera Ayman Moue, an activist who participated in the protest organization, told Al.

"We can not count on this summit to improve the economy in Lebanon. It will not have positive changes," he added.

Legislators could not agree on a new cabinet since the May general elections, the economic challenges of Lebanon have been aggravated by their political instability. The demanding exchange protests have been in progress for months.

Observers believe that peak summit relief reflects a missed opportunity on the side of Lebanon to improve their economic and political position.

"The assistance of Arab leaders would support Lebanon, a lean state economically and politically, and helped him renew in the Arab scene as it was before the Syrian crisis," said Mohanad Hage Ali, a political analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center, told Al Jazeera .

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