Member states of the Arab League

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A graphic timeline of membership.

The Arab League has 22 member states. It was founded in Cairo in March 1945 with six members: the Kingdom of Egypt, Kingdom of Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Republic, and Transjordan (Jordan from 1949). North Yemen (later becoming Yemen) joined on 5 May 1945. Membership increased during the second half of the 20th century. Seven countries have observer status. The headquarters are located in Cairo, Egypt.

List of current member states

Country Admission
date
Capital Area (km²) Population (2021) Official languages
 Algeria 16 August 1962 Algiers 2,381,741 43,576,691 Arabic, Tamazight
 Bahrain 11 September 1971 Manama 750 1,526,929 Arabic
 Comoros 20 November 1993 Moroni 2,235 864,335 Arabic, Comorian, French
 Djibouti 4 September 1977 Djibouti 23,200 938,413 Arabic, French
 Egypt 22 March 1945 Cairo 1,002,450 106,437,241 Arabic
 Iraq 22 March 1945 Baghdad 438,317 39,650,145 Arabic, Kurdish
 Jordan 22 March 1945 Amman 89,342 10,909,567 Arabic
 Kuwait 20 July 1961 Kuwait City 18,717 3,032,065 Arabic
 Lebanon 22 March 1945 Beirut 10,452 5,261,372 Arabic
 Libya 28 March 1953 Tripoli 1,759,541 7,017,224 Arabic
 Mauritania 26 November 1973 Nouakchott 1,030,700 4,079,284 Arabic
 Morocco 1 October 1958 Rabat 710,850 or 446,550 36,561,813 Arabic, Tamazight
 Oman 29 September 1971 Muscat 309,550 3,694,755 Arabic
 Palestine 9 September 1976 Jerusalem (de jure)
Ramallah (de facto)
6,040 or 26,790 4,906,308 Arabic
 Qatar 11 September 1971 Doha 11,437 2,479,995 Arabic
 Saudi Arabia 22 March 1945 Riyadh 2,149,690 34,783,757 Arabic
 Somalia 14 February 1974 Mogadishu 637,661 12,094,640 Somali, Arabic
 Sudan 19 January 1956 Khartoum 1,886,068 46,751,152 Arabic, English
 Syria 22 March 1945 Damascus 185,180 20,384,316 Arabic
 Tunisia 1 October 1958 Tunis 163,610 11,811,335 Arabic
 United Arab Emirates 6 December 1971 Abu Dhabi 83,600 9,856,612 Arabic
 Yemen 5 May 1945 (North Yemen)
30 November 1967 (South Yemen)
22 May 1990 (Unified Yemen)
Sana'a (de jure)
Aden (de facto)
527,968 30,399,242 Arabic
^ Libya's seat is taken by the House of Representatives (which is disputed by the Muslim Brotherhood-led General National Congress and Government of National Accord)
^ The area 446,550 km² for Morocco excludes all disputed territories, while 710,850 km² includes the Moroccan-claimed and partially-controlled parts of Western Sahara
^ Palestine's area of 6,040 km² consists of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip which is governed by the Palestinian National Authority, however the area of 26,790 km² includes the Israeli-controlled Green Line, claimed by some Palestinian groups such as Hamas, though its claims were renounced by the new Palestinian National Covenant in 1996
^ Syria's seat is occupied by the Syrian National Coalition, while the Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic was suspended on 16 November 2011
^ Yemen's seat is taken by the Cabinet of Yemen (which is disputed by the Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee)

List of current observer states

Seven countries are observer states—a status that entitles them to express their opinion and give advice but denies them voting rights. These are Eritrea, where Arabic is one of the official languages, as well as Brazil and Venezuela, which have large and influential Arab communities. India is another observer to the Arab League, with a sizable number of people claiming Arab descent. Armenia was granted observer status in 2004. Chad was granted observer status in 2005.

Country
Admission
date
Capital
Area
(km²)
Population
Official/Working
languages
 Armenia 2004 Yerevan 29,743 3,018,854 Armenian
 Brazil 2003 Brasília 8,515,767 207,350,000 Portuguese
 Chad April 2005 N'Djamena 1,284,000 13,670,084 French, Arabic
 Eritrea January 2003 Asmara 117,600 5,869,869 Tigrinya, English, Arabic
 Greece 2021 Athens 131,445 10,655,371 Greek
 India April 2007 New Delhi 3,287,263 1,326,572,000 Hindi, English
 Venezuela September 2006 Caracas 916,445 31,775,371 Spanish

Membership timeline

Arab League Enlargements

Arab League 1945.svg
1945-founding members: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Yemen


Arab League 1958.svg
1958 – Third Enlargement: Morocco, Tunisia


Arab League 1971.svg
1971 – Seventh Enlargement: UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar


Arab League 1993.svg
1993– Twelfth (Latest) Enlargement: Comoros --- Arab League (orthographic projection) updated.svg
2011– Shrinkage: Separation of South Sudan

  • 1942 – The United Kingdom promotes the idea of the Arab League.
  • 1945 – Leaders of seven states in the Middle East sign the Alexandria Protocol, thus establishing the first Organization with a Pan-Arabic ideology in the 20th century. The founding members were Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan (entering under the name of Transjordan), and Yemen (which from 1967 was generally known under the name North Yemen).
  • 1953 – Libya joins the Arab League two years after independence.
  • 19 January 1956 – Sudan joins the Arab League, two weeks after independence from the United Kingdom and Egypt.
  • 1 October 1958 – Morocco and Tunisia join the Arab League, two years after independence.
  • 20 July 1961 – Kuwait joins the League 31 days after independence, and becomes the first Asian state to join the League after the founding states.
  • 16 August 1962 – Algeria accedes to the Arab League, less than two months after independence.
  • 1967 – South Yemen joins the Arab League upon its independence.
  • 1971 – the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain join the Arab League.
  • 26 November 1973 – Mauritania joins the Arab League thirteen years after independence.
  • 14 February 1974 – Somalia joins the Arab League fourteen years after independence.
  • 9 September 1976 – Palestinian Liberation Organisation joins the Arab League. Its seat is assumed by the State of Palestine following the declaration of independence in 1988.
  • 4 September 1977 – Djibouti joins the Arab League two months after its independence from France that same year.
  • 26 March 1979 – Egypt suspended from the Arab League; readmitted on 23 May 1989.
  • 22 May 1990 – North and South Yemen unify.
  • 1993 – The Comoros accede to the Arab League.
  • January 2003 – Eritrea joins the Arab League as an observer.
  • 2003 – Brazil joins the Arab League as an observer for one summit.
  • 2004 – Armenia joins the Arab League as an observer.
  • April 2005 – Chad joins the Arab League as an observer.
  • September 2006 – Venezuela joins the Arab League as an observer for one summit.
  • April 2007 – India joins the Arab League as an observer state for the summit.
  • 22 February 2011 – Libya suspended from the Arab League; readmitted on 25 August 2011.
  • July 2011 – South Sudan gains independence from Sudan, but does not join the Arab League.
  • 16 November 2011 – Syria suspended from the Arab League.

Potential members and observers

Only one country where Arabic is an official language remains outside of the League: Chad. In Malta, Eritrea and South Sudan, although Arabic is not an official language, a dialect of the language is spoken by portions of the populations in these countries. Additionally, there are two other Arabic-speaking states with limited recognitionSahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Somaliland – but their disputed status, being claimed by League members Morocco and Somalia respectively, makes their membership unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Chad's membership was endorsed by the Egyptian government under Hosni Mubarak in 2010. Chad applied for membership on 25 March 2014. Arabic is one of its two official languages, some 12% of Chadians identifying as Arab and around 900,000 are Arabic-speaking. Chad has had observer status since 2005.

Eritrea applied for membership on 25 March 2014. To be considered for membership, Eritrea needs to improve its relations with other neighboring League members, including Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia. Eritrea has had observer status since 2003.

South Sudan declared its independence from League member state Sudan in July 2011. A clause in the Charter of the Arab League accords the right of territories that have seceded from an Arab League member state to join the organization. South Sudan has been assured full membership in the Arab League should its government choose to seek it. Alternatively, the nation could opt for observer status. It has indicated that it would not be joining the League since the government believes it does not meet the pre-conditions for membership; specifically, that "the League requires that the countries must be Arabic speaking countries that consider Arabic language the main language of the nation; on top of that, the league also requires that the people of that particular country must believe that they are actually Arabs. The people of Southern Sudan are not of Arabic origin, so I don't think there will be anybody in Southern Sudan who will consider joining the Arab League". In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the Foreign Minister of South Sudan Deng Alor Kuol said: South Sudan is the closest African country to the Arab world, and we speak a special kind of Arabic known as Juba Arabic. Sudan supports South Sudan’s request to join the Arab League. South Sudan applied for observer status in March 2018.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is not a member though it is recognized by some Arab League states. Its status is disputed, its territory being claimed by League member Morocco, which makes its membership unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Latin America and the Caribbean is the home of a large, influential Arab population, mostly reside in Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, Panama, Ecuador, Jamaica, Haiti and Guatemala. However, these countries use Spanish, Portuguese, English and French as official languages, and have demonstrated little interests on joining the Arab League. Brazil and Venezuela are the only two observers in the League.

Suspensions

Egypt - Egypt's membership was suspended in March 1979 after it signed the Egypt–Israel peace treaty and the League's headquarters were moved from Cairo to Tunis. In 1987, Arab League states restored diplomatic relations with Egypt, the country was readmitted to the League in May 1989 and the League's headquarters were moved back to Cairo in September 1990.

Libya - Libya was suspended from the Arab League on 22 February 2011. On 27 August 2011, the Arab League voted to restore Libya's membership by accrediting a representative of the National Transitional Council, which was partially recognised as the interim government of the country in the wake of Gaddafi's ouster from the capital of Tripoli.

Libya's membership was suspended on 22 February 2011, following the start of the Libyan Civil War and the use of military force against civilians. That makes Libya the second country in the League's history to have a frozen membership. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi declared that the League was illegitimate, saying: "The Arab League is finished. There is no such thing as the Arab League". On 25 August 2011, Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby announced it was "about time" Libya's full member status was restored. The National Transitional Council, the partially recognised interim government of Libya, sent a representative to be seated at the Arab League meeting on 17 August to participate in a discussion as to whether to readmit Libya to the organisation.

Syria - On 20 September 2011, the Arab Parliament recommended suspension of Syria and Yemen over persistent reports of disproportionate violence against regime opponents and activists during the Arab Spring. On 12 November 2011, the League passed a decree that would suspend Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic's membership if the government failed to stop violence against civilian protesters by 16 November 2011 amidst the uprising. Syria, Lebanon and Yemen voted against the motion, and Iraq abstained. Despite the opportunity, the Syrian government did not yield to the League's demands, resulting in its indefinite suspension. There was criticism after the Arab League sent in December 2011 a commission "monitoring" violence on people protesting against the regime. The commission was headed by Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, who served as head of Omar al-Bashir's military intelligence, while war crimes, including genocide, were allegedly committed on his watch. On 6 March 2013, the Arab League granted to the Syrian National Coalition Syria's seat in the Arab League. On 9 March 2014, the League's secretary general Nabil al-Arabi said that Syria's seat at the Arab League would remain vacant until the opposition completes the formation of its institutions.

See also