Baghdad Summit (1978)

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Arab summit held after the Camp David Accords.

Egypt's President Anwar al-Sadat's diplomatic overtures to Israel beginning in late 1977 came as a tremendous shock to the rest of the Arab world, which was concerned by the prospects of Egypt, Israel's strongest Arab enemy, splitting Arab ranks by signing a separate peace with the Jewish state. Iraq, emerging as a powerful force in intra-Arab politics, was instrumental in convening a summit meeting after the Camp David Accords, signed by Israel and Egypt in September 1978. Leaders from twenty Arab states and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) met in Baghdad between 2 and 5 November 1978, to consider the Arab world's response.

The summit acted on several major issues. It rejected the Camp David Accords and offered its own peace proposal. Based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, it called for Israel's full withdrawal from occupied Arab territories, the establishment of a Palestinian state, and recognition of the right of all states within the region to exist.

Second, the summit threatened Egypt with severe penalties if it followed up on the Camp David Accords by signing a formal peace treaty with Israel. Although Saudi Arabia tried to prevent such drastic steps, these threats amounted to total isolation of Egypt from the rest of the Arab world. Specific measures included expelling Egypt from the League of Arab States, moving the league's headquarters from Cairo, breaking off diplomatic relations, and halting all economic and military aid.

Third, the summit adopted financial measures to bolster the remaining frontline states and prevent further defections from Arab ranks. Some Arab states were particularly concerned that Jordan, which had expressed guarded interest in President Sadat's diplomatic initiatives with Israel, might follow his lead. Responding to a proposal by Iraq, the summit created a $9 billion fund to provide financial assistance for Syria, Jordan, and the PLO. The action proved crucial in discouraging Jordan from going against Arab consensus.

The summit also was important in paving the way for collective action among Arab states after several years of tension. Iraq and Syria set aside their poor relations, at least temporarily, just as the summit and the financial aid it provided symbolized Jordan's improving relations with Iraq.

Representatives of the summit were dispatched to meet with Sadat on 4 November, but he refused to receive them. On 27 March 1979, the day after the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed, the council of the League of Arab States met in Baghdad to follow through on the reprisals promised at the November summit; representatives of Sudan, Oman, and the PLO were not present. The sanctions were applied on 31 March, the final day of the meeting: All Arab states except Sudan, Oman, and Somalia terminated diplomatic relations with Egypt and halted all forms of assistance. Egypt was expelled from the League of Arab States, the headquarters of which were transferred from Cairo to Tunis.

see also camp david accords (1978); league of arab states; palestine liberation organization (plo); sadat, anwar al-.

Michael R. Fischbach