Saudi Arabia to offer ‘home-grown’ solutions to regional challenges at Arab League summit: Analysts 

Special Delegates attend the Arab Foreign Ministers Preparatory Meeting ahead of the 32nd Arab League Summit in Jeddah on May 17, 2023. (AFP)
Delegates attend the Arab Foreign Ministers Preparatory Meeting ahead of the 32nd Arab League Summit in Jeddah on May 17, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2023
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Saudi Arabia to offer ‘home-grown’ solutions to regional challenges at Arab League summit: Analysts 

Saudi Arabia to offer ‘home-grown’ solutions to regional challenges at Arab League summit: Analysts 
  • Jeddah summit was preceded by Saudi-led initiatives aimed at building a unified Arab position on regional crises
  • Analysts say the Kingdom’s ascent to regional authority sets this year’s summit apart from previous meetings

AMMAN: Saudi Arabia’s coastal city of Jeddah is hosting the 32nd Arab League summit at a time of change and upheaval in many parts of the Arab world. It also coincides with a desire for greater unity and sense of purpose among members of the pan-Arab group.

According to analysts who spoke to Arab News ahead of the event, Saudi Arabia’s growing authority and its support for “home-grown” solutions to regional problems have provided much of the impetus for this collective call for cooperation.

The summit is happening in the shadow of a deadly conflict and humanitarian emergency in Sudan. Fresh tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are also expected to feature prominently in the discussions.

There will no doubt be some positive developments, including progress on resolving the war in Yemen. This is also the first Arab League summit attended by the Syrian leadership since its suspension in 2011, marking the country’s reintegration into the Arab fold.

Overall, there is a pervasive mood of optimism prevailing at the summit, which analysts say will not be merely a “ceremonial” affair or “a meeting for meeting’s sake” as in previous years, but a practical and proactive gathering to offer leadership on multiple regional files.

“Since its establishment in 1945, all previous Arab League summits had been marred by regional crises and much disagreement within the pan-Arab body to the point that many of those meetings had been either canceled or yielded no tangible outcomes,” Omar Ayasrah, a Jordanian lawmaker and political analyst, told Arab News.

“But the summit in Jeddah seems to be different. It has been preceded by a number of Saudi-led initiatives and practical steps aimed first at laying down positive grounds for the meeting and consequently building a unified Arab position on regional crises and the necessary collective framework to address them.”

For Ayasrah, it is Saudi Arabia’s ascent to regional authority, its keenness to alleviate tensions among Arab states, and its aim to solidify a unified Arab front on the world stage that set this year’s summit apart from previous editions.

“A Saudi-led project to formulate home-grown solutions to regional crises will be the theme of the summit in Jeddah,” he said.

Echoing Ayasrah’s remarks, geopolitical analyst Amer Sabaileh says that the simple act of holding the summit in Jeddah makes the occasion more “important, glamorous and rewarding.”




Smoke rises above buildings in Khartoum, as violence between two rival Sudanese generals continues, on May 17, 2023. Khartoum was again rocked by battles on May 17, more than a month into a brutal war that has made "more than half" of the already impoverished country in need of aid, according to the United Nations. (AFP)

Furthermore, “the Saudis are involved in all issues,” he said, highlighting the Kingdom’s “tremendous” diplomatic efforts ahead of the summit to build an Arab consensus and set out a well-defined agenda for the meeting.

Although less optimistic about the outcomes of the gathering, Samih Maaytah, Jordan’s former minister of media, also expects it to be different from past gatherings, citing, in particular, the reintegration of Syria.

The 22-member Arab League agreed to reinstate Syria earlier this month, ending a 12-year suspension imposed in response to the Bashar Assad regime’s crackdown on nationwide protests in 2011, which later escalated into a brutal civil war.

The formulation of an Arab-led plan to end the conflict will likely feature prominently on the summit agenda.




An Israeli soldier aims his rifle at a Palestinian man during clashes in which Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian residents and shops in the town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank on October 13, 2022. (AFP/File Photo)

“The major components of the road map for Syria have been agreed upon in Jeddah and Amman,” said Ayasrah. “I think the summit in Jeddah will outline the mechanism for implementation.”

During these preparatory meetings, attended by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Syria, Damascus pledged to combat illicit drug production and trafficking and to launch practical steps to ensure the safe voluntary return of refugees.

“The summit in Jeddah will push for a political solution to the Syrian crisis to be formulated from within the Arab League,” Maaytah said. “Arabs are taking the lead on Syria.”

The euphoria marking Syria’s return to the Arab fold will likely be tempered, however, by the situation in Sudan, where the Sudanese Armed Forces are locked in combat with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

“This will have a negative impact on the summit,” said Maaytah. “Arab leaders meeting in Jeddah will be faced by the crisis in Sudan, fully realizing that it is a conflict that will not come to an end until one of the warring parties is completely defeated.”

According to analysts, Arab leaders meeting in Jeddah will call on Sudan’s feuding parties to engage in dialogue and resume the Saudi-hosted talks to end the conflict that has killed hundreds of people and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries.

Analysts also expect the latest clashes between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, Israeli activities in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the policies of Israel’s hardline government to feature on the agenda.

“Arabs will also offer peace during the summit and will reaffirm the two-state solution proposed in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,” said Ayasrah.

The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia, calls for an end to the decades-old conflict and the normalization of relations between Israel and the entire Arab world in exchange for an independent Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders. The Arab League re-adopted the plan in 2007.




Deputy Minister for International Multilateral Affairs Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Rassi chaired the meeting of the representatives and senior officials for the Foreign Ministers Preparatory Meeting for the 32nd session of the Arab Summit. (Twitter/@KSAmofaEN)

“Although little space is left for political solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a result of the Israeli government and society both leaning more toward the extreme right, a re-emphasis of the two-state solution according to relevant international resolutions should be made during the summit,” said Maaytah.

In spite of these challenges, the mood surrounding the summit remains overwhelmingly positive, with a widely felt sense that several long-running issues are finally being addressed by the Arab community itself.

“Reaching consensus on the major topics and then acting accordingly is what matters most during the Jeddah summit,” said Sabaileh.

“Reactivating joint Arab action and regaining momentum to initiatives will be the major achievements of the summit.”

 


Arab Parliament denounces Israel for constructing watchtower on Al-Aqsa’s western wall

Arab Parliament denounces Israel for constructing watchtower on Al-Aqsa’s western wall
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Arab Parliament denounces Israel for constructing watchtower on Al-Aqsa’s western wall

Arab Parliament denounces Israel for constructing watchtower on Al-Aqsa’s western wall
  • Arab Parliament said that the Israeli occupation aims to change the historical, political, demographic, and legal reality of the occupied city of Jerusalem
  • Parliament called for urgent international intervention to end Israeli violations at Islam’s third holiest site and to take all measures to stop the ethnic cleansing

The Cairo-based Arab Parliament has condemned the construction of a watchtower on the western wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the installation of surveillance cameras on it by Israeli authorities.

It held Israel accountable for the consequences of such practices, saying it “exceeded all limits of provoking Muslims around the world and expanding the circle of ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people.”

It added that the “occupation’s measures are invalid, illegitimate, illegal, and a blatant violation of international law and UN and UNESCO resolutions, in light of the genocidal war and ethnic cleansing” in Gaza.

The organization said that the “Israeli occupation aims to change the historical, political, demographic, and legal reality of the occupied city of Jerusalem and its sanctities and to erase the Palestinian Arab identity.”

The Arab Parliament called for urgent international intervention to end Israeli violations at Islam’s third holiest site and to take all measures to stop the “ethnic cleansing to which the Palestinian people are subjected.”

On Sunday, Israeli forces installed surveillance cameras on the watchtower they built on the western wall of the mosque, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the move and denounced the Israeli forces’ daily incursions into the mosque compound and Israeli attempts to “change the historical, political, demographic, and legal reality of Jerusalem.”


Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt

Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt
Updated 28 February 2024
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Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt

Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt
  • “The time now is not for a government where Hamas will be part of it, because, in this case, then it will be boycotted by a number of countries, as happened before,” he said

GENEVA: Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki said Wednesday he believes Hamas understands why it should not be part of a new government in the Palestinian territories.
Maliki told a press conference that a “technocratic” government was needed, without the group which is fighting a bitter war against Israel.
“The time now is not for a national coalition government,” Al-Maliki said.
“The time now is not for a government where Hamas will be part of it, because, in this case, then it will be boycotted by a number of countries, as happened before,” he told the UN correspondents’ association.
“We don’t want to be in a situation like that. We want to be accepted and engaging fully with the international community,” he explained.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced Monday the resignation of his government, which rules parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, citing the need for change after the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza ends.
A decree from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the government will stay on in an interim capacity until a new one is formed.
Maliki said the priority was engaging the international community on to help provide emergency relief to Palestinians, and then looking at how Gaza could be reconstructed.
“Later, when the situation is right, then we could contemplate that option. But what comes first is how to salvage the situation. How to salvage innocent Palestinian lives. How to stop this insane war and how to be able to protect Palestinian people,” he said.
“That’s why I think Hamas should understand this, and I do believe that they are in support of the idea to establish, today, a technocratic government.
“A government that is based on experts, individuals who are completely committed to take up the reins and the responsibility for this period — a difficult one — and to move the whole country into a period of transition into a stable kind of situation where, at the end, we might be able to think about elections.
“And after elections, the outcome of the elections will determine the type of government that will govern the state of Palestine later.”
Maliki is in Geneva to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The war in Gaza began after Hamas launched an attack on October 7 that killed about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza.
Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed at least 29,954 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.


Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say

Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say
Updated 28 February 2024
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Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say

Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say
  • The force that was targeted, the local Christian Syriac police known as Sutoro, works under the US-backed and Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria
  • The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said three Suturo police members were killed, as well as one civilian

BEIRUT: Turkish drone strikes in northeastern Syria on Wednesday killed at least three members of a local Christian force and wounded others, including civilians, a Kurdish official and a Syrian opposition war monitor said.
There was no immediate comment from Ankara on Wednesday’s airstrikes. Turkiye has been attacking Kurdish fighters in Syria for years but attacks on the fighters from the country’s Christian minority have been rare.
The force that was targeted, the local Christian Syriac police known as Sutoro, works under the US-backed and Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.
Siamand Ali of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces told The Associated Press that the Turkish drones initially hit three Suturo vehicles near the northeastern town of Malikiyah. When a fourth vehicle, a pick-up truck, arrived at the scene to retrieve the casualties from the strike, it also came under attack, he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said three Suturo police members were killed, as well as one civilian.
The Observatory said the attack was the latest of 65 such strikes so far this year in northeastern Syria that have killed 18 people, mostly Kurdish fighters.
Turkiye often launches strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq it believes to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK — a banned Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkiye since the 1980s. Turkiye says that the main Kurdish militia in Syria, known as People’s Defense Units, or YPG, is an affiliate of the PKK.
Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency however, reported on Tuesday that the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, had killed a senior Kurdish fighter member in an operation in the northern Syrian town of Qamishli.
The report identified the woman operative as Emine Seyid Ahmed, a Syrian national, who allegedly went by the code name of “Azadi Derik.”
She reportedly joined the Kurdish Women Protection Units, or YPJ, in 2011 and allegedly planned a number of attacks against Turkish security forces as well as cross-border missile attacks targeting civilians in Turkiye, Anadolu reported.


Syrian man dies of wounds from anti-Assad protest

Syrian man dies of wounds from anti-Assad protest
Updated 28 February 2024
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Syrian man dies of wounds from anti-Assad protest

Syrian man dies of wounds from anti-Assad protest
  • It was the first fatality linked to demonstrations about economic conditions that swept across Sweida

DAMASCUS: A Syrian man died of gunshot wounds sustained in a protest against President Bashar Assad in the southern flashpoint province of Sweida on Wednesday, a medical source and two local monitors said.
It was the first fatality reported that was linked to the demonstrations about economic conditions that swept across Druze-majority Sweida last year and quickly spiralled into rallies against Assad.
Suwayda 24, a local news website, reported that a 52-year-old man succumbed to gunshot wounds after security forces guarding a government building shot at nearby protesters.
A local medical source and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the 13-year war, confirmed the fatality.
Suwayda 24 said the spiritual head of the Druze sect Sheikh Hikmat Al-Hijri met with protesters on Wednesday and said the man was a “martyr.”
Last August, steep gasoline prices sparked mass protests across Sweida, a province that had largely been spared the violence that has ravaged the rest of Syria since 2011, when Assad’s crackdown on demonstrations against him sparked a full-blown war.
The demonstrators swiftly turned their criticism to Assad and demanded sweeping political changes. Across the province, scores of local branches of the ruling Baath party were forced shut by protesters tearing down posters of the president and his father, a rare show of defiance in areas under government rule.


Hamas claims rocket fire on north Israel from south Lebanon

Hamas claims rocket fire on north Israel from south Lebanon
Updated 28 February 2024
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Hamas claims rocket fire on north Israel from south Lebanon

Hamas claims rocket fire on north Israel from south Lebanon
  • Hamas’s armed wing the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement it targeted two Israeli military sites with two barrages of “Grad rockets“
  • The Israeli military said in a statement that “approximately 10 launches which crossed from Lebanon into northern Israel were identified“

BEIRUT: The military wing of Palestinian group Hamas on Wednesday said it fired a volley of rockets toward northern Israel from south Lebanon, amid escalating exchanges at the Lebanon-Israel border in recent days.
Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli army since war erupted between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group in October, while Palestinian groups in Lebanon have also occasionally claimed attacks.
Hamas’s armed wing the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement it targeted two Israeli military sites with two barrages of “Grad rockets.”
The attack from south Lebanon came in “response to Zionist massacres against civilians in the Gaza Strip and the assassination of martyred leaders and their brothers in the southern suburbs” of Beirut, the statement added.
The Israeli military said in a statement that “approximately 10 launches which crossed from Lebanon into northern Israel were identified,” adding that sirens had sounded in north Israel’s Kiryat Shmona area.
Air defenses “successfully intercepted a number of the launches,” the statement said, adding that the army “struck the sources of the fire in Lebanon.”
Israeli police reported property damage in the Kiryat Shmona area but no wounded.
A strike in January, which a United States defense official said was carried out by Israel, killed Hamas’s deputy leader Saleh Al-Aruri and six militants in Hezbollah’s south Beirut stronghold — the most high-profile Hamas figure to be killed during the war.
This month, security sources told AFP a senior Hamas officer had survived an assassination attempt south of Beirut.
The escalating cross-border exchanges since October 8, the day after the Israel-Hamas war erupted, have stoked fears of all-out war on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
The exchanges have killed at least 284 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
At least 24 fighters from Palestinian groups including from 10 Hamas are also among the dead.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.