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Arab Summit: New Syrian-Jordan unity

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"There is definitely some concern in the Arab world after these elections, in that the new government might not be as committed to peace as one would like. [Saudi King Abdullah] has said the Arab Initiative is there, but it will not be on the table forever."

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Syria and Jordan have long taken deeply different approaches to the region's conflicts. Hamas has its leadership base in Damascus, but has been all but ejected from Jordan. Most other Palestinian rejectionist groups have offices in the Syrian capital, but are unwelcome here.

In the past few months, however, events may have shifted the dynamic. Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza raised ire across the Arab world and made it more difficult for Jordan to defend its relationship with Israel against critics of normalization with the Jewish state. And President Barack Obama took office, leaving behind the Bush Doctrine, says Amman analyst Mouin Rabbani.

"Jordan was among those states which would really like to see regime change in Damascus, to see a Damascus that is more hostile to Arab resistance movements and more friendly towards Israel," says Mr. Rabbani.

"Jordan was more or less aligned with Bush's policy in Palestine and Iraq," Rabbani adds. "Now Bush is gone, and Jordan is now seeing that it must make its peace with the existing regime in Damascus rather than replace it – Damascus is also keen to mend fences."

Mr. Sharif says that the most pressing issue at Doha will be the peace process in general, and Palestinian unity in particular. Hamas and Fatah have been holding talks in Cairo towards reaching a national reconciliation deal that would lead to a unity government, but have yet to reach an agreement. They resume talks next month.

The summit will also likely emphasize Arab support of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who faces an arrest warrant issued in early March by the Hague-based International Criminal Court. Mr. Bashir is wanted for crimes against humanity in the suppression of a rebellion in the Darfur region.

And Egypt’s absence? Egypt and Qatar have recently been at odds in the region, backing rival approaches to the Palestinian and Sudanese crises.

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