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Low-level Attendance Disappoints Syrians at Arab Summit

[Analysis] When the annual Arab Summit kicked off in Damascus on Saturday, the 22-state alliance had only 11 heads-of-state representing its members – a stinging rebuke to Syria and a sign of disunity within the Arab world. The ostensible reason for the rift is Syria‘s ongoing involvement in Lebanon, whose government decided to boycott the summit altogether. Others key nations, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, sent only low-level diplomats as their representatives. There was no attempt to sidestep the issue as the conference got under way. Conference host Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad addressed it head-on in his greeting when he said his country was willing to join others seeking a solution to the Lebanese government’s impasse "on condition that they are based on Lebanese national consensus." But other leaders responded that there was, indeed, a national consensus, but Syria was preventing it from being carried out. The two sides of the rift are comprised of Syria and Iran versus the pro-Western nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. The Syrians blame the United States for fomenting Arab disunity.