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Arabic press round-up: Handshakes and snubs at Islamic summit

Politics get personal in Istanbul as Erdogan avoids Egyptian foreign minister, Saudi king and Iranian president ignore each other
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) takes centre stage at the OIC alongside Saudi Arabia's King Salman (AFP)

The problems of the Middle East, including conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, political turmoil in Libya and the plight of the Palestinians have filled the agenda of this week’s Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit meeting in Istanbul.

But many in the Arabic media have chosen instead to interpret the state of relations between the main players in the Muslim world, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani among those in attendance.

Absent from the list of dignitaries was Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with Egypt’s Youm7 newspaper focusing on an apparent breach of protocol when Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry left the stage during opening ceremonies without shaking Erdogan’s hand.

Egypt’s Elwatannews website reported that Erdogan had refused to shake hands with Shoukry and had also failed to applaud his speech. “All the attendees clapped for Egypt's statement except Erdogan,” wrote Slawa Al Zoghbi.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s thesaudi.info website said that King Salman and Iranian President Rouhani had also avoided shaking hands, with the paper celebrating the moment with the hashtag #KingSalmanIgnoresRouhani and considering it a source of “pride”.

Writing for the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Rassd news website, Sayed Redwan said there were three reasons why Sisi was not at the conference “and the most prominent reason is Erdogan”.

The other reasons cited were the breakdown in relations between Ankara and Cairo since the 2013 coup that deposed the Muslim Brotherhood and brought Sisi to power, and the continuing operations of the Brotherhood in Turkey.

Writing for Youm7, Ahmed Arafa highlighted the Brotherhood’s lobbying efforts on the sidelines of the summit.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to exploit the OIC summit. [Leaders of] the Muslim Brotherhood and its [Egyptian] Freedom and Justice Party are holding meetings to boost their causes and the Brotherhood announced protests in Istanbul and near the airport,” he wrote.

Other Arabic news outlets preferred to focus on some of the issues on the table at the summit.

Al Jazeera Arabic's news website reported that the summit had backed the UN plan for a political solution in Syria, including a transfer of power to the Syrian people. It also reported that the summit’s final statement would include a condemnation of the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran earlier this year.

The Palestinian Quds press news agency said that Palestine was the top issue on the summit’s agenda, citing Erdogan’s speech in which he said the “weeping of Palestine under Israeli pressure is a deep wound in the heart of the Muslim world. An independent Palestinian state must be established to solve the conflict in the region.”

The Lebanese Al Nahar newspaper focused on the OIC's position on terrorism with the headline: “Islamic Summit: Terrorism is the scourge of society and there is a need to establish a body to combat it.”

The article quoted King Salman of Saudia Arabia who said in his speech: “Terrorism is the greatest danger facing our nation and we must unite to challenge it.”

The UAE's Alkhaleej newspaper published a long analysis on the agenda of the conference under the headline: “Islamic summit condemns Iran's intervention and establishes a centre to counter terrorism.”

The article highlighted the UAE's position in relation to Iran, which was stated by the governor of Umm Al-Quwain emirate, Raud Bin Rashid al-Mola: “The terrorist and criminal acts that threaten the Muslim world have unfortunately found an incubatory environment with the support and funding of some powers, whether by money or armaments in order to undermine the Islamic nation.”

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, known for its pro-Iranian position, hit back by accusing Saudi Arabia of using the summit to drum up opposition to Iran.

“While speeches delivered at the OIC asserted the importance of dialogue to resolve the problems of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia continues its efforts in targeting Iran and Hezbollah by accusing them of terrorism. These accusations caused heated debates in the OIC discussions," it said in a report.