The last time Algeria hosted a summit of Arab heads of state is so long ago that few Algerians remember it. It was March 2005. At the time, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was at the height of his power – and in good health – and Algeria was turning the page on the black decade. Bashar al-Assad’s Syria was a stable and respectable country, Colonel Gaddafi reigned as absolute master of Libya and, in Egypt and Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali seemed destined to reign in perpetuity. Seventeen years after this conclave during which Bouteflika dangled King Mohammed VI the possibility of reopening their common border, which had been closed since August 1994 before turning his back, Algeria is once again hosting a summit of the Arab League in a totally disrupted national, regional and international context.
In Algiers, Abdelmadjid Tebboune succeeded the old president Bouteflika, chased from power by the Hirak in 2019. The Arab Spring took with them Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gaddafi, and abolished life presidencies. At war for ten years, Syria has fallen into the arms of Russia and remains banned from the Arab League, while Libya is struggling to emerge from the chaos into which the fall of the whimsical guide plunged it. The sworn enemy, Israel, has normalized relations with the Gulf monarchies as well as with Morocco, whose relations with Algeria have been broken since August 2021.
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It is in this upset context that heads of state and Arab monarchs meet on November 1 in Algiers, at the sumptuous International Conference Center (CIC) Abdelatif Rahal, located in the seaside resort of Club des Pins. That this 31st summit opens on the day when Algeria celebrates the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1954 war of independence helps to give this event a very special character.
Return of Algerian diplomacy
Beyond the agenda, the first issue of this summit is the participation of heads of state. For months, the Algerians have spared no effort to convince the Arab leaders to come to Algiers. Never since his return to the head of diplomacy in June 2020, Ramtane Lamamra has traveled so much around the world to obtain participation agreements. “The presence of all is essential in order to take the necessary decisions to relaunch cooperation between the Arab countries”, confided the minister two weeks before the opening of the summit.
Some absences should not hide the strong participation
Despite the absence of the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, and certain Gulf monarchs, such as the Emir of Kuwait or the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Ben Salman who apologized for his defection to President Tebboune citing health reasons, the Algerians insist on the Name of attendees. “The absence of the Saudi prince is not diplomatic, insists an Algerian diplomat. She was understood in Algiers. In addition, the Emir of Qatar will be present. Some absences should not hide the strong participation. »
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This 31st Arab League summit unquestionably marks the return of Algerian diplomacy to the international scene. This is all the more true since Bouteflika had been conspicuous by his absence from all the Arab and African summits since a stroke had nailed him to a wheelchair in 2013. A situation that had caused paralysis – even the disintegration – the Algerian diplomatic apparatus. “The former president of the Senate, Abdelkader Bensalah, who represented Algeria at major international meetings to make up for Bouteflika’s absence, even avoided meeting his foreign counterparts, recalls a former ambassador. This shows how much the withdrawal of our diplomacy has reduced Algeria’s influence on the international scene. »
First big meeting
If this 31st summit remains that of the Arab League, the fact remains that it is the Algerian summit of the Arab world, the Algerians like to say. It is first of all the first major international meeting in which Abdelmadjid Tebboune participates. It is that, since his election in December 2019, the Algerian head of state has traveled little, both abroad and in the country. “The challenge of this summit is also to take up the place left empty by the disease, and the eclipse of its predecessor”, advances our diplomat.
This November 1, the Algerian president will also be able to measure the progress made since his accession to power. On November 1, 2020, Tebboune was hospitalized in a clinic in Germany, where he had been admitted in serious condition after being contaminated with Covid-19. By his own admission, he owes his life to German doctors, to whom he did not fail to express his thanks and gratitude. One thing is certain: this 31st Arab League summit will not look like to others.