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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Saudi Arabia puts Palestine top of Arab League agenda

US condemned for Jerusalem decision as foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to prepare for summit on Sunday

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir attends the preparatory meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers ahead of the 29th Summit of the Arab League in Riyadh. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir attends the preparatory meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers ahead of the 29th Summit of the Arab League in Riyadh. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Saudi Arabia on Thursday condemned the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as foreign ministers of the Arab League met in Riyadh.

The Trump administration’s decision to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem “hampers the international efforts to end the Arab-Israeli conflict”, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said during his opening speech at the preparatory meeting for 29th Arab League summit on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia will take “a firm stand” in placing the Palestinian conflict at the top of the summit's agenda, Mr Al Jubeir said.

“We extend our support to the Palestinians’ right to establish their homeland based on the 1967 lines with the capital city Jerusalem, as stated in the international resolutions and the Arab peace initiative,” he said.

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The civil war in Yemen was discussed on the sidelines of meeting by the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general Dr Abdulatif Al Zayani and the UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

The GCC head said they held talks on resuming negotiations among stakeholders to end the war, which has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises after three years of fighting.

Dr Al Zayani said the terms for a settlement would begin with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels handing over power to the internationally recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi and relinquishing control of the capital, Sanaa.

In a surprise move, Qatar’s permanent representative to the Arab League and ambassador to Egypt, Saif Muqaddam Al Buainein, attended Thursday's meeting in the Saudi capital.

It was the first public visit to the kingdom by a Qatari official since the boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and three other countries began on June 5 last year.

However, it is unlikely that the dispute over Doha's support for extremism will be resolved during the session, with Mr Al Jubeir saying last month that Qatar was minor concern for his country. The sentiment was echoed by the other boycotting countries — the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

The presence of a Qatari official on Thursday follows reports earlier this week in the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai that Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, will attend the summit.

While the Qatar dispute is not on the main agenda of the summit, the meeting is expected to address the situation in Libya and Syria.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, said the foreign ministers' meeting and the summit in Dammam on Sunday would attempt to bolster regional stability and address concerns over Arab conflict.

“From Riyadh, the capital of strength and steadfastness, we are seeking to develop commonalities that will promote stability, reject foreign interference in Arab affairs,” he said on Twitter.

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