Qatar emir attends Arab economic summit in Lebanon
Qatar's emir has taken part in a regional economic summit in Lebanon amid sharp divisions in the country and among neighbouring Arab nations.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani arrived in Beirut on Sunday and left after attending the opening session of the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit (AESD), Lebanese state media reported.
Sheikh Tamim and the President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz were the only heads of state from the 22-member Arab League who attended the summit.
Sheikh Tamim and the president of Mauritania were the only heads of state from the 22-member Arab League who came to Beirut to attend the summit. Other countries sent lower-level delegations.
The other leaders’ absence appeared to be a snub to Lebanon, where groups led by the Iranian-backed Hizballah had insisted that Assad should be invited.
“We regret the absences of some brotherly kings and presidents who have their justified excuses,” Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said in his opening speech, without elaborating.
On the emir's visit, Dr. Ali Bakeer, a political analyst, said: "I think it was a good opportunity to show support for the Lebanese state as most Arab Gulf countries were absent."
"It is certainly a move that will increase Qatar’s influence and soft power again in Lebanon after it went down during the regional divergence with the Saudi and Iranian positions from the Arab revolutions".
But the meet has been marred by divisions over re-admitting Syria to the Arab League.
Syria, whose membership was suspended by the Arab League in 2012 over the brutal crackdown on protests, was not invited despite demands by allies of Damascus in Lebanon.
Qatar has been one of the main backers of Syrian rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have recently reopened their embassies in Damascus.
Meanwhile, Libya abstained from attending the summit after it came under attack over the unresolved mystery surrounding the disappearance of a Lebanese Shia cleric in Libya decades ago.
Lebanon had hoped the summit would boost its sinking economic credentials.
The AESD was formed in 2009 as an exclusively economic and development conference that tends to involve the private sector, including banks, chambers of commerce, industry and agriculture.
The agenda does not include the reconstruction of Syria, much of it ruined in nearly eight years of civil war.
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