The Arab League announced on Wednesday that its members have agreed to postpone its summit, scheduled for May 11 in Baghdad, amid disputes over the venue and popular unrest rocking the region.
Arab foreign ministers will meet on May 15 to set a new date, Egypt’s state news agency MENA quoted the deputy secretary-general of the Arab League, Ahmed Ben Helli, as saying.
“The Arab League today distributed a memorandum to its members stating that due to a request by Iraq to convene an extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers, and in light of the consultations conducted … with member states, an agreement emerged to delay the summit,” Ben Helli was quoted as saying.
No Arab League officials were immediately available to give further details, according to a report from Reuters.
Mass demonstrations demanding political reforms have toppled the long-time leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and are challenging the leaders of Syria and Yemen. The unrest has already prompted the Arab League to delay its summit from March to May.
The summit is supposed to discuss the unrest and choose a new secretary general to succeed Amr Moussa, whose term ends on May 15.
Gulf Arab states asked the Arab League to cancel the upcoming summit, the Bahraini foreign minister has said, after Iraq criticized Bahrain’s crackdown on Shi’ite protesters.
If the summit went ahead in Baghdad, it might help Iraq reassure neighbours, mainly Sunni Arab-dominated governments, who view the rise of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority with suspicion and fear the growing influence of Shi’ite-dominated Iran.
It would also be a test of the readiness of Iraq’s army and police as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw by end-year.