Daily Israel Report

Al-Arabi to Head Arab League

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Arabi has been tapped to serve as Secretary-Gen. of Arab League as Egypt-Israel relations enter a cold front.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 5/16/2011, 10:52 AM / Last Update: 5/16/2011, 11:17 AM

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Arabi was unanimously elected on Sunday asthe seventh Arab League chief, Gulf News reports.

Political analysts credit Qatar with the appointment.  Qatar withdrew its candidate, Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah, former head of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, following an agreement with Egypt to replace its original candidate, Dr Mustafa Al Fikki, with Al Arabi. Al Fikki is regarded by many Egyptians, who staged protests against his nomination outside the Arab League office in Cairo, to be a supporter of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Al Arabi, a veteran Egyptian diplomat, is known for his nationalist and pan-Arab views. He succeeds Amr Mousa, also an Egyptian, who is planning to run for Egypt's presidency.

UAE Welcomes Appointment
The UAE on Sunday welcomed the selection of Egypt’s Foreign Minister as the Arab League’s new secretary-general. “None of us could imagine that Mousa would leave his position," UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said Sunday. "It is true that we have lost him as a secretary-general, but we will win him in other positions."

He also praised Qatar for withdrawing its candidate in favour of Al Arabi. "Qatar gave us a lesson and I hope that the Arab solidarity will be able to cope with any differences,” Shaikh Abdullah said.

Tradition
Egypt has, with the exception of a period in the 1980s when the Arab League convened in Tunis following Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel in November 1977, held the position of secretary-general since the formation of the Arab League in 1945.

A diplomat, who attended the session to elect the secretary-general in Cairo, told Gulf News it was a last-minute deal that kept alive the tradition of electing the secretary-general from the host nation. "Qatar was pressing to change the unwritten rule of the nationality of the secretary-general and block the nomination of a diplomat who is widely believed will add nothing to the post," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Al-Arabi's appointment  comes as Egypt-Israel relations have entered a cold front following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and the ascension of a caretaker junta as Egypt prepares for new elections. He was recently behind Egypt's push to retroactively hike the price Israel has paid for gas since 2008.

Some 54% of Egyptians say they want the 1979 Camp David Accords abrogated.