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Conflicts: Ukraine war: Where do the countries of the Middle East stand?

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At the first meeting of the Arab League in a long time, Algeria would have liked to welcome back Russia’s ally Syria. But this met with resistance. How do the Arab states view Moscow?

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So far, the Arab world has been reluctant to criticize Russia and its war of aggression against Ukraine. But a dispute within the Arab League, which met yesterday and today for the first time in three and a half years, reveals that the attitude towards Russia is not necessarily so neutral among all members.

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In the run-up to the meeting of Arab heads of state and government, host Algeria had called for Moscow’s ally Syria to be reinstated in their ranks. But the initiative failed due to resistance from some countries.

“This is a blow to the diplomatic strategy of Russia, which has invested considerable resources to prove that it is a reliable partner for the Arab countries,” French geopolitician Pierre Boussel writes in an article by the US think tank Carnegie. The war in Ukraine “showed that Moscow is not the ally it claims to be.”

Syria forced to pause due to civil war

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership eleven years ago because of its brutal civil war. The resumption was an express wish of Syria’s protecting power Russia. Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia opposed it. Riyadh justified its veto by saying that a plan drawn up by the league to end the war in Syria had not been implemented.

However, some observers interpreted the fact that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stayed away from the summit in Algiers as a reluctance to deal with the real reasons. According to official information, doctors advised the de facto ruler of the Gulf state not to participate.

Saudi Arabia’s stance opaque

However, Riyadh’s attitude towards Russia is difficult to fathom. The kingdom agreed to a production cut for oil. The US saw the move as support for the Russian war of aggression, as Saudi Arabia and Russia are considered the leading forces in the Opec+ oil alliance. Riyadh asserted that the reasons for the decision were “purely economic”.

Two weeks ago, the Gulf State then pledged millions in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. At a UN General Assembly, the kingdom – like almost all other Arab countries – voted for a resolution condemning Russia’s illegal annexations in Ukraine.

Only Syria’s government, which thanks to Moscow’s help in the civil war once again controls around two-thirds of the country, voted against it.

The Islam expert Boussels sees the relationship between Moscow and the Middle East as burdened, above all, because of the economic effects of the Russian war of aggression. For example, the Ukraine is the most important supplier of grain for many Arab countries. “These economies have never been so weak,” he told the dpa. According to the IMF, more than 140 million people in the region are at risk of food insecurity. The topic is also on the agenda of the summit.

Avoid conflicts with other major powers

However, the fact that the USA is withdrawing more and more from the region is reinforcing the reluctance of many Arab countries. They want to avoid conflicts with other major powers and thus further economic turmoil. For the Arab population, the wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya are also much closer.

However, Russia’s use of Iranian combat drones in Ukraine is likely to worry the Gulf states in particular, which see Iran as an existential threat. The US is also currently fearing Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabia’s territory. The growing military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran could therefore possibly soon force the Gulf monarchy to take a clearer stance.

At the start of the summit, Moscow sent warm words to the 22 member states: Cooperation between Russia and them contributes to peace in the world.

Source: Stern

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