Under the leadership of Mahmoud Riyadh, the third secretary-general (1972-1979), political activity increased. However, the League has been weakened by internal disagreements on political issues, particularly with regard to Israel and the Palestinians. After the signing of a peace agreement with Israel on 26 March 1979, the other members of the Arab League voted to suspend Egypt`s membership and transfer the Cairo League headquarters to Tunis. Egypt was reinstated in 1989 as a member of the Arab League, and in 1990, the League`s headquarters returned to Cairo. In its early years, the Arab League focused mainly on economic, cultural and social programs. In 1959, it held the first Arab Petroleum Congress and in 1964 founded the Organization of Higher, Cultural and Scientific Education (ALECSO). In 1964, despite Jordan`s objections, the League also granted PLO observer status as a representative of all Palestinians. It was revalued in 1976 as a full membership. “The discussions on this point were serious. It was complete and lasted for a while. But in the end it did not reach an agreement on the draft resolution proposed by the Palestinian side,” Arab League Deputy Secretary General Hossam Zaki told reporters. The Arab League was forced to adapt to sudden changes in the Arab world when popular protests known as the Arab Spring erupted in late 2010 and early 2011 in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
In February 2011, the Arab League suspended Libya`s participation in the League amid its regime`s violent response to the Libyan insurgency and in March supported the creation of a no-fly zone to protect Libyan opponents of the Libyan government Muammar Gaddafi from airstrikes by loyalist forces. Libya`s participation in the Arab League resumed in August under the representation of the National Transitional Council (CNT) after the fall of Gaddafi. Meanwhile, as the insurgency in Syria became increasingly violent in 2011, the Arab League agreed in November with the Syrian government to end its bloody 10-month campaign against peaceful protesters in Syria.