Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday said that the Arab League (AL) members agreed on the formation of a joint Arab military force to counter growing security threats.
“In response to the responsibility imposed by the grave challenges facing our Arab nation and threatening its resources, the Arab leaders have decided to approve the principle of forming an Arab military force,” President Sisi said in his closing speech of the 26th Arab Summit held in Egypt’s seaside city of Sharm el-Sheikh and attended by 20 monarchs and presidents.
Sisi added that a high-level team is to be formed and supervised by the chiefs of staff of the participant states to study all necessary aspects for the establishment of the joint military force.
The idea of forming a multinational Arab force was initiated by Sisi to face common challenges that threaten Arab national security. His initiative came after a video was circulated online in February showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya by affiliates of the Islamic State militant group.
The Arab foreign ministers said in the draft of their final communique that “the joint military force would immediately intervene to counter challenges that threaten safety and security of the member states, based on request of the concerned country.”
According to the final declaration of the two-day Arab summit concluded on Sunday, forming such a force is an available option “to defend the Arab national security in confrontation of the ongoing challenges and the rapid developments particularly those related to groups’ practices of violence and terrorism.”
AL Secretary-General Nabil al-Araby said Sunday that the decision is “important and urgent” due to the ongoing unrests and threats facing the Arab world that require collective response.
“Participation in the joint force is optional, just like participation in anything else,” the AL chief clarified in a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry.
Araby noted that the Arab military chiefs of staff will be invited for a meeting within one month to start the necessary discussions and procedures for forming the joint front.
The results of the meeting, he continued, are to be presented to the Arab leaders by a committee comprising the current summit’s president Egypt, the former one Kuwait and the next one Morocco for approval.
Iraq voiced its reservation towards the initiative of forming a united Arab military force as it sees that “there must have been dialogue ahead of such an initiative.”
For his part, the Egyptian foreign minister pointed out that after the feedback of Arab leaders, the final steps for the formation of the joint military force will be presented to the AL Joint Arab Defense Council for comments and final approval.
“All Arab states are represented at the Joint Arab Defense Council and they all have the right to present their inputs to formulate such a joint Arab work in a way that suits those participant of non-participant states.” Shukry told reporters.
He added that those Arab states who does not have the desire or the means to join the coalition at the moment might have them later.
Back in 1950, AL member states signed a Joint Arab Defense and Economic Cooperation Treaty to counter the expansion of Israel, yet the agreement has been frozen since it was signed.
The recent Arab agreement on the joint military force comes while a Saudi-led military coalition enters its fifth day in bombing targets of the Shiite Houthi militants in Yemen, a move made without a prior permission from the AL or the United Nations.
The move was made following a prior request of fleeing Yemeni President Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi who urged Arab military intervention to prevent Houthis’ advance in Yemen.
The Houthis took over Yemeni capital Sanaa last September and forced the president to flee to southern port city of Aden earlier this year.
As the Houthis are closing in on Hadi’s last stronghold in the country in a bid to capture him, the Yemeni leader had no choice but to run again. He is now taking refuge in Saudi Arabia, and also attended the summit in Egypt.
The Houthis claim that their actions are meant to fight against the expansion of Sunni Salafism in Yemen and to defend their Shiite community from widespread and systematic discrimination.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said Sunday that the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes, referred to as “the Decisive Storm Operation,” managed to prevent Iranian jets from providing Houthis with weapons.
He added that a national dialogue will be held after the ongoing military operation in Yemen is over and after the Houthis completely withdraw from all the territories they seized.
The Saudi-led coalition reiterated that its operation is meant to protect the legitimate government of President Hadi.
The Arab summit’s final declaration revealed Sunday called for immediate withdrawal of Houthi rebels from the Yemeni capital Sanaa as well as from governmental institutions and hand over their arms to the legitimate authorities. Enditem