Arab ministers meet in Beirut ahead of economic summit

Arab ministers meet in Beirut ahead of economic summit
The chair of the Syrian Arab Republic is empty at the opening session of the Arab foreign ministers meeting ahead of a weekend Arab Economic Summit, in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, or AESD, is being held in Lebanon for the first time amid sharp divisions in the country and among Arab countries. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT (AP) — Arab ministers have begun meetings in Beirut ahead of a regional economic summit that most regional leaders will not attend.

The Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, or AESD, is being held in Lebanon for the first time amid sharp divisions in the country and among Arab countries.

Syria, whose membership was suspended by the Arab League in 2012, was not invited despite demands by allies of Damascus in Lebanon.

Libya abstained from attending after it came under attack because of the unresolved mystery surrounding the disappearance of a Lebanese cleric in Libya decades ago.

Seven Arab leaders had been expected at Sunday’s summit but only the presidents of Somalia and Mauritania will attend.

During Friday’s ministerial meeting, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called for restoring Syria’s membership.