Egyptian and Saudi leaders meet Sunday to coordinate their position on the next Arab summit amid strained ties with its Syrian host over Lebanon's political standoff and fears that the summit is doomed to failure.
In their meeting, Egypt's President Hosny Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are expected to make a long-awaited crucial decision on the Damascus summit scheduled for March.
By deciding their level of participation in the summit, both regional powers, are setting the tone for many Arab countries, which are likely to follow suit.
Ahead of his visit to Riyadh, Mubarak stressed the importance of his alliance with the Saudis.
'Saudi-Egyptian ties are the mainstay of pan-Arab cooperation,' Mubarak told Saudi Al Riyadh newspaper.
The standoff stems from disagreements between the majority coalition government and the Hezbollah-led opposition over their representation in a proposed unity cabinet and the ensuing stalemate in electing a president.
In turn, Riyadh and Cairo with their backing of the Lebanese majority government seem to have intractable disagreements with Syria, which backs the opposition.
Mubarak and Abdullah will reaffirm their declared position that the election of a Lebanese president - a post that has been vacant since November - is a prerequisite to a successful Arab summit.
But diplomatic sources in Riyadh refused to say whether Mubarak and Abdullah would boycott the summit in response to Syria's perceived interference in Lebanon's domestic politics and hindering the election of a consensual president.
Syria has recently lashed at the Cairo-Riyadh axis and insisted that the summit is going ahead irrespective of their level of participation.
'Syria rejects political blackmail by some Arab and international circles to affect the upcoming 20th summit in March,' Syria's former Information Minister, Mahdi Dakhlallah said.
'Not a single Arab summit has brought all Arab leaders together,' Dakhlallah said.
'The summit will be held as scheduled but there is a problem with the level of representation. It is certain that many leaders will attend,' he added.
Summits are often marred by differences between Arab countries. Libya boycotted the Riyadh summit in 2007 while the 2005 summit, which was to be hosted by Tunisia and eventually held in Cairo, was marred by differences over democratization and ties with Israel.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Şubat 2008, 18:48