TUNIS (Rahnuma) : Arab leaders opened their annual summit in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, on Sunday.
Addressing the opening session, Saudi King Salman said his country rejects a U.S. decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
“We reaffirm our unequivocal rejection of infringing the Syrian sovereignty over Golan Heights,” he said.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation officially recognizing the area, which was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war, as an Israeli territory.
On the Syrian crisis, the Saudi monarch underlined the need to reach a political solution that “guarantees the sovereignty of Syria and the prevention of any foreign intervention, in accordance with international resolutions.”
As for the situation in the Palestinian territories, he said the Palestinian issue would remain a top priority for the kingdom “until the Palestinian people regain their legitimate rights”.
He also touched on the Yemeni crisis, reiterating Riyadh’s support for UN efforts aimed at reaching a political solution to the five-year conflict.
“We call on the international community to exert pressure on the Iran-backed Houthi militias to stop their aggressive attacks that aggravate the suffering of the Yemeni people,” he said.
“The aggressive policies of the Iranian regime are flagrant violations of all international conventions and norms, and the international community should do more pressure to prevent Iranian support for terrorism in the world,” he added.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, for his part, said terrorism amounts to be “the biggest threat to security and development in the world.”
“It is unacceptable for the Arab region to continue to be hard-hit by tension and terrorism,” he said. “It is also unacceptable…to turn our region into scenes for regional and international conflicts.”
Essebsi affirmed that “Golan Heights is an occupied Arab land and this is recognized by the international community”.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, for his part, reiterated his country’s rejection of the U.S.’s decision on the Golan Heights.
In a speech, al-Sisi called for the launch of negotiations with a view to achieving an immediate settlement in Syria.
On the Palestinian issue, the Egyptian president stressed that “the Arab-Israeli conflict has no way out except for a just and peaceful solution that ensures that Palestinians get their independent state”.
Jordanian King Abdullah II, in turn, affirmed that “there will be no security and stability without a just solution to the Palestinian issue”.
“The Palestinian issue was and will remain the first concern that occupies the Arab conscience,” he said, adding “there will be no security, stability and prosperity in the region without a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian cause”.
He went on to note that the solution should satisfy the aspirations of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state “on the lines of June 4, 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
As for the situation in Jerusalem, King Abdullah II confirmed that Jordan would continue its historic role in “defending and protecting the Islamic and Christian holy places there”.
Only 13 Arab leaders are attending the one-day summit, including Qatar’s emir Tamim bin Hamad and Egypt’s al-Sisi.
Other attending leaders include Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad of Kuwait and King Abdullah II of Jordan as well as the leaders of Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Mauritania and Djibouti.
Libya is also represented by the head of the country’s presidential council Fayez al-Sarraj.
Meanwhile, eight leaders are absent from the summit; most notably Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said and Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
War-torn Syria is not represented by any official at the summit as the country’s Arab League membership has been frozen since 2011.
The summit’s agenda is expected to tackle recent Israeli escalations against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip; ongoing crises in Libya, Yemen and Sudan; alleged Iranian interference in Arab affairs; and the fight against terrorism.