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Arab, EU leaders vow 'new era' of cooperation

By CHEN YINGQUN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-27 09:46

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and European Council President Donald Tusk pose for the family photo of Arab and European leaders during the first EU-Arab League Summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Feb 24, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Arab and European leaders ended their first summit on Monday, vowing to further deepen cooperation on a wide range of issues, especially regarding counterterrorism and migration.

A final declaration said that Arab and European leaders, after discussing common and current challenges across the two regions during the two-day summit, have pledged to embark on "a new era of cooperation and coordination" to enhance the stability and prosperity of the two regions and the world at large.

Nearly 50 leaders of European and Arab countries participated in the League of Arab States-European Union Summit.

The summit was held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and was co-chaired by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and President of the European Council Donald Tusk.

Sisi highlighted counterterrorism and migration as common interests for the Arab and European countries. In a news conference after the closing of the summit, he said that they should keep up with the means used by terrorist elements and limit their access to the technologies.

"We are becoming convinced to establish a joint mechanism of action between the European and Arab sides to confront and combat terrorism," he said.

Tusk said at the conference that the Arab and European countries face many of the same challenges, including international security crisis and mass population displacement.

"As close neighbors, we have no alternative but to work together on these and other issues," he added.

Arab and European leaders also agreed that they need work together on managing migrants and refugee flows. According to an AFP report, more than one million people, many of them fleeing the war in Syria, entered the European Union bloc in 2015.

Hisham AbuBakr Metwally, an economics researcher with the Central Department for Export and Import Policy of Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry, said that the summit means that Arab and European countries have built a new mechanism for communication and coordination. But it would take time for all parties to forge common agreements that can be applied, as they hold very different views over many issues, he said.

He Wenping, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the summit showed that cooperation between Arab and European states is critical for tackling regional security and migration issues.

"As the United States is to withdraw troops from Syria soon, the Arab and European states will have to shoulder more responsibility in seeking regional security and tackling refugee issues that were brought mainly by wars," she said.

She noted, however, that both the League of Arab States and the European Union have limited influence on their member states, which differ on many issues. The summit is a beginning for cooperation for the two regions, but much will need to be done to achieve any real progress, she said.

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