AMMAN, Jordan — A summit meeting of Arab leaders ended here Wednesday with a condemnation of Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf and a green light for Arab states to restore diplomatic relations with Egypt.
The 21-member Arab League's resolution on Egypt had immediate effect. Later in the day, the United Arab Emirates announced that it was restoring diplomatic ties with the Cairo government, becoming the first of at least six Arab countries that are expected to do so in the wake of the Amman summit.
Most Arab countries severed relations with Egypt in 1979 after it signed a peace treaty with Israel. Diplomats said last week, however, that Arab states of the Persian Gulf have agreed to re-establish formal ties with Egypt. The timing of the move is widely viewed as being related to the Iran-Iraq War and the increasing threat that these countries perceive from Iran.
Rather than announcing a wholesale renewal of Arab relations with Egypt--a proposal by moderates that was blocked by Syria and Libya--Wednesday's compromise communique said individual countries would be free to restore relations as they wish.
"It would have happened sooner or later anyway, but (the timing) is very important as a symbolic step," a Western diplomat said. "It sends a strong message to Iran . . . to think twice about antagonizing these countries," the diplomat added, noting that Egypt is the strongest military power in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iraq itself are all expected to follow the Emirates' move over the next few weeks. The African nations of Sudan and Somalia and the tiny sheikdom of Oman, at the extreme southern end of the Persian Gulf, never broke relations with Cairo, and Jordan restored ties in 1985.
In addition to paving the way for rapprochement with Cairo, the summit achieved one other significant breakthrough by gaining the acquiescence of Syria, a close ally of Iran, in the adoption of a formal communique criticizing the Tehran government.
Syria appeared to have made a serious concession to the other heads of state on the issue, in part because it seemed isolated by supporting Iran, a non-Arab state, against Iraq and in part because it has reportedly been promised massive financial aid--reports speak of $2 billion from rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf, who are threatened by Iran--to moderate its views.
"If faced with threats, the world may know we will face them as one with a determination to defend our rights," Jordan's King Hussein told a news conference Wednesday after the summit ended.
No Concrete Steps
Despite the condemnation of Iran, however, the four-day meeting of the 21-member league--consisting of 20 Arab nations plus the Palestine Liberation Organization--took no concrete steps to end the seven-year-old Persian Gulf War.
The Arabs leaders also endorsed King Hussein's proposal to place the Middle East problem before an international conference attended by the Israelis, Arabs and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council--France, China, Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States.
A final communique said the conference should be attended by all the parties concerned, including the PLO, "on equal footing."
It was not clear whether the mention of equal footing would conflict with Hussein's proposal to attend the proposed conference with a delegation including Jordanian officials and Palestinians.
Hussein later told a press conference that the wording would not preclude the two parties forming a joint delegation.
Focus of Talks
Most of the communique was dedicated to setting forth a unified Arab stand on the gulf conflict, which was the basic reason for the emergency summit and which became the focus of the delicate negotiations at the conference.
The summit followed an escalation of Iranian attacks against shipping in the gulf, missile attacks against Kuwait and threats against Saudi Arabia.
But apart from attacking Iran's behavior and showing Arab unity in paper form, the leaders offered no action that promises to help curtail the war in the gulf.
For example, it had been proposed at one point that the Arabs agree to break relations with Iran or impose an embargo against the Tehran regime. But neither idea survived the debates, not only because of Syrian opposition but also because of concern from Persian Gulf Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which have extensive commercial and diplomatic relations with their neighbor across the gulf.
Anxiety and Indignation
The final communique said the gathered leaders expressed their anxiety and indignation over Iran's threats to the gulf states. They called on Iran to accept Security Council Resolution 598, adopted in July, which called for a cease-fire in the war.
"The conference condemned Iran's occupation of part of Iraqi territory and its procrastination in accepting Security Council Resolution 598," the statement said.