The Arab League has gained in importance as a result of the Arab Spring.Especially in the conflicts in connection with the uprisings in Libya and Syria it played – and continues to play – a prominent role.Safeguarding pan-Arab interests was one of the organization’s main objectives from the outset.
The League of Arab States was established in 1945 and now has 22 member states: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen as well as the Palestinian territories, which have not yet achieved independent statehood. In November 2011, the participation of Syria’s delegation in all meetings of the Arab League was suspended on account of the brutal measures taken by Bashar Assad’s regime against the rebels in Syria. The Arab League has its headquarters in Cairo.
As well as safeguarding Arab interests, the organization’s mission is to foster political, economic, social and cultural cooperation among the member states and to protect their independence and sovereignty.
Under the Charter of the Arab League, the supreme organ is the Council which, as a rule, convenes twice a year as well as for extraordinary meetings whenever the need arises. The presidency rotates among the member states every six months.
Since March 2000, there has been one Arab League summit per year.The last summit took place in Baghdad in March 2012. The next summit will take place in 2013 in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
The executive organ of the Arab League is its Secretary General.The Egyptian Nabil El Araby has held this post since May 2011. The Secretary General is elected for a five-year term by a two-thirds majority in the Council.
The Arab League and the upheavals in the Arab world
The Secretariat of the Arab League declared its grave concern about the violent repression of peaceful protests and its support for democratic change for the first time in April 2011.
In March 2011, the Arab League called on the UN Security Council to vote in favour of a no-fly zone over Libya and had suspended Libya’s membership of the organization. On 22 August, the Secretary General of the Arab League issued a statement confirming the intention of the League, its member states and its institutions to work together with its “Libyan brothers”, to provide every form of emergency aid and to prepare for the reconstruction phase.
The Arab League began to take action early on in the crisis in Syria.On 27 August 2011, the Arab League held its first meeting on Syria. On 12 November 2011, the Arab League suspended the Syrian delegation from all Arab League meetings.It also decided – for the first time in the Arab League’s history – to impose political and economic sanctions against Syria after the Syrian Government failed to implement the Arab League’s action plan to which it agreed on 2 November. The Arab League also actively promoted an agreement with Syria’s opposition.
At its summit on 29 March 2012, the Arab League underlined the core demands of those taking part in the upheavals in the Arab World: social justice, human rights, rights for young people and women as well as political rights for religious and cultural minorities.
The Arab peace initiative
The Arab peace initiative was adopted during the Arab League summit in March 2002.It lays down the conditions for a normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel.The core element is full recognition of Israel by the Arab states in exchange for Israel’s complete withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories.The Riyadh summit in 2007 endorsed the initiative unanimously.
The EU’s relations with the Arab League
In 2009, an EU-Arab League liaison office was opened in Malta.In Brussels on 1 December 2011, Secretary General El Araby attended the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council for the first time. Both sides expressed considerable interest in more intensive relations.The meetings that take place every two years between European Union and Arab League foreign ministers are part of this. The second meeting of this kind took place on 13 November 2012 in Cairo. The meeting focused on the crisis in Syria, the Middle East peace process and strengthening cooperation between the European Union and the Arab League.