Palestine and Iran: Arab leaders declare their top priorities

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Arab League leaders pose for a family photo during the 29th Arab League Summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on April 15, 2018. (Saudi Royal Palace photo/Bandar Al-Jaloud)
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King Salman criticized the US decision to transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as Arab leaders met in Dhahran for the annual summit. (Reuters)
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Saudi King Salman (C) welcoming UAE's Vice President Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (L) ahead of the 29th Arab League Summit in Dhahran. (Saudi Royal Palace photo/Bandar Al-Jaloud)
Updated 16 April 2018

Palestine and Iran: Arab leaders declare their top priorities

  • Houthi militias blamed for continuous war and suffering in Yemen
  • Iran’s blatant interference in affairs of Arab countries condemned

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia: Leaders gathered at the Arab summit stressed the centrality of the Palestinian cause and their support for the Palestinian people in their struggle to have an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The leaders also stressed the importance of uniting Arab efforts in the fight against terrorism and to confront Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the Arab region.

In his opening remarks, King Salman named the current Arab League Summit the “Jerusalem Summit” in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

He also announced the dedication of $50 million to UNRWA and $150 million to the Islamic Endowment Support Program in Jerusalem, saying: “The Palestinian issue will remain our top issue until all Palestinians get their legal right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

“As we reiterate our condemnation and rejection of the American administration’s decision concerning Jerusalem, we commend the international consensus that rejects it, and we affirm that East Jerusalem is an inalienable part of the Palestinian territory.

“On Yemen, we affirm our commitment to Yemen’s unity, sovereignty, independence, security and territorial integrity.

“We hold the terrorist Iranian-allied Houthi militants fully responsible for the continuous war and suffering in Yemen. We welcome the UN’s statement that denounced the launching of the 119 Iranian-made ballistic missiles by the Houthi militants toward Saudi cities, three of which were targeting Makkah, proving to the international community once again the dangers of Iranian behavior in the region, its violation of the principles of international law and its disrespect of the values, ethics and principles of good neighborliness, and we call for a decisive UN position on this issue.”

King Salman added: “One of the most serious challenges facing our world today is the challenge of terrorism that has allied with extremism and sectarianism to produce internal conflicts that have affected many Arab countries. We renew our strong condemnation of Iran’s terrorist acts in the Arab region and reject its blatant interference in the affairs of Arab countries.

“Based on our belief that the Arab national security is an integral and indivisible system, we have presented you with an initiative to deal with the challenges facing the Arab countries under the title ‘Strengthening Arab National Security to Face Common Challenges,’ stressing the importance of developing the Arab League and its system.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said his country made every effort during its presidency of the Arab Summit, and in coordination with Arab leaders, to face the historical challenges of the Arab nation and harness all possibilities and international relations to serve the just causes of our Arab nation, especially the Palestinian cause and Holy Jerusalem.

King Abdullah praised the “positive developments and the victory that the Iraqi brothers achieved against Daesh terrorist organization ... we emphasize the need to complement the military victory with a political process that involves all components of the brotherly Iraqi people.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the adoption and support of the peace plan he put forward last February in the UN Security Council, which is based on the Arab initiative. It calls for convening an international peace conference in 2018 and for the admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the UN.

Abbas added: “The current US administration broke international laws by its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and has made itself a party to the conflict instead of a mediator for its solution, making talk of a US peace plan untenable.”

Abbas stressed that the Palestinian side never refused to engage in negotiations and that “it responded to all the initiatives that were presented, and worked with the international quartet and all successive US administrations down to the current one. We met with President Trump several times and waited [for the current administration] to present its plan for peace, but its recent decision constituted a major setback which was rejected by the majority of the world.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi affirmed absolute confidence in the wisdom of King Salman in supporting the joint Arab action mechanism, stressing that some regional countries are trying to establish areas of influence in the Arab countries.

As for the Yemeni crisis, El-Sisi said that Egypt is committed to working toward achieving a political solution in Yemen, stressing that Egypt would not tolerate the bombing of Saudi Arabia by some Yemeni elements. El-Sisi added that the army of a foreign state is currently present on the territories of two Arab countries.

Fast track to Hajj on Jakarta’s ‘Makkah Road’

Updated 18 July 2018

Fast track to Hajj on Jakarta’s ‘Makkah Road’

  • A fast-track clearance for Indonesian Hajj pilgrims has been opened at Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport
  • The initiative comes as the first groups of pilgrims left from six Indonesian cities, including the capital

JAKARTA: A fast-track clearance for Indonesian Hajj pilgrims — known as the “Makkah Road” — has been opened at Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport.
The initiative comes as the first groups of pilgrims left from six Indonesian cities, including the capital.
Indonesian and Saudi officials, including Osama bin Mohammed Al-Shuaibi, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Indonesia, were present at the official launch of the fast-track facility on Tuesday.
Airport operator Angkasa Pura has installed 20 booths to process Hajj pilgrims, with each counter manned by two Saudi immigration officers.
“This is the first time the immigration process has taken place in Jakarta, so they will not have to go through custom clearance on arrival in Saudi Arabia and can go directly to their buses, which will take them to their accommodation, while their luggage will be handled and delivered directly to their respective hotels,” Al-Shuaibi said.
“This is a step to improve our Hajj services. We have introduced it this year at Jakarta, where about 60,000 pilgrims are expected to depart. We will introduce it in four cities next time and eventually we hope to introduce it all Hajj embarkations in Indonesia,” he said.
The envoy said that about 400 pilgrims underwent the fast-track clearance in an hour at the airport on Tuesday.
“We appreciate King Salman’s initiative that makes the pilgrims’ journey much easier. It shows that we have a deep and close relation,” Indonesia’s Minister of Social Affairs, Idrus Marham, said.
Director-General of Hajj and Umrah at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Nizar Ali, said that 4,486 pilgrims had left from Surakarta, Surabaya, Jakarta, Padang, Makassar and Lombok. More than 221,000 pilgrims are expected to leave Indonesia this year, with the last departure on Aug. 14.
Garuda, the Indonesian airline, expects to fly as many as 108,000 pilgrims in 280 groups from around the country.
Among the 393 pilgrims who left Jakarta was 91-year-old Mohammad Hasan Saad, from East Jakarta, the oldest person in the group.
Hanif Fakri, a member of the medical staff assisting the group, said that Saad was making his second pilgrimage after his first Hajj in 2012.
Hanafi bin Dogol, a 50-year-old pilgrim from East Jakarta, told Arab News that he been on a seven-year waiting list waiting for his chance to go on Hajj.
“I have been practicing and learning the rituals. I hope I can accomplish the pilgrimage in the most favorable manner,” he said.