TUNIS: The threat from Iran is the main challenge facing Arabs, Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf told other Arab foreign ministers on Friday.
“One of the most dangerous forms of terrorism and extremism is what Iran practices through its blatant interference in Arab affairs, and its militias ... the Revolutionary Guards in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, which requires cooperation from us to confront,” he said.
Arabs must work to stop Iran’s ballistic missile program, and Tehran was supplying Houthi militias in Yemen with rockets to attack Saudi cities, Al-Assaf told a meeting of foreign ministers before Sunday’s Arab League summit in Tunis.
The minister also restated Saudi support for Syria’s territorial integrity and a political solution to the civil war based on dialogue between the opposition and government, but said a unified Syrian opposition should emerge before the start of any dialogue.
Syria’s membership in the Arab League has been suspended since the Assad regime’s violent repression of protests in 2011. The US has been trying to persuade Arab Gulf states to hold off on restoring ties with Syria, although the UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus at the end of last year to counter the influence of Iran.
Tunisia, which takes over this year from Saudi Arabia in hosting the summit, will coordinate with other Arab countries in responding to the US decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui said.
“We will work with fellow Arab countries and the international community to contain the expected repercussions of this decision in various regional and international forums,” Jhinaoui said.
Arab states have condemned last week’s decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize the plateau as Israeli territory. They want Washington to retract its decision and stop other countries following suit.
Trump also angered Arabs last year by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria and Arab East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war and annexed both in moves not recognized under international law.
The foreign ministers agreed on a draft statement on the Golan to be presented to heads of state on Sunday, in preparation for it to be announced at the summit. The statement amounts to a categorical rejection of the US president’s declaration, diplomats told Arab News.
Before the summit, there was also a meeting to discuss the political process in Libya.