Egypt’s Abul Gheit voted in as new Arab League Chief

Arab League announces it has chosen former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit as its new Secretary General

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has been appointed as new Secretary General of the Council of the Arab League.

Veteran Egyptian diplomat Ahmed Abul Gheit was named on Thursday as the Arab League's new secretary general, at a time when the regional body faces multiple wars and a widening terrorist threat.

In a sign of divisions within the pan-Arab body, however, Qatar voiced reservations over Abul Gheit's candidacy due to his "hostile positions" towards Doha, Arab diplomats said.

"The consultations resulted in the nomination of Ahmed Abul Gheit to the post of secretary general," Bahraini Foreign Minister, Khaled bin Ahmed al Khalifa, announced in televised remarks at the end of a ministerial meeting.

Abul Gheit, who served as foreign minister under Egypt's ousted President Hosni Mubarak, takes office at a time when the Cairo-based Arab League is facing several tests of its unity.

At the top of the list is the war in Syria that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011.

The more than five-year-old conflict has seen regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran backing opposite sides.

In addition, relations between Qatar and Egypt, which traditionally chooses candidates for the post of secretary general, have soured.

Cairo accuses Doha of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood movement of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president who was toppled by the army in 2013.

The Brotherhood has been the target of a brutal crackdown since then, and Doha has regularly denounced the operations that left hundreds dead and thousands in jail.

Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani, expressed Doha's "reservations" over Abul Gheit but voiced hope the next secretary general "will maintain contact between all Arab countries in the interest of joint Arab action."

Several diplomats told AFP that Qatar had accused Abul Gheit of pushing Egypt to boycott a Qatari-proposed Arab summit in 2009 to discuss an Israeli assault on Gaza.

Unlike the charismatic ex-chief of the Arab League, fellow Egyptian Amr Mussa, who was known for taking a tough stand on Israel, Abul Gheit has often faced criticism for adopting a softer approach towards the Jewish state.

Abul Gheit had accused the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gaza of being responsible for the Israeli assault.

Cairo proposed Abul Gheit, 73, for the post after the incumbent, Nabil al Arabi, another Egyptian, declined a second five-year term as secretary general. His term ends in July.

Abul Gheit will be the eighth secretary general of the League since it was founded in 1945.