Riyadh summit focuses on reconciliation efforts

Posted in Broader Middle East | 12-Mar-09 | Source: Gulf in the Media

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak (L-R), Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah walk together at Riyadh airport March 11, 2009.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah held talks yesterday with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to seek "ways of achieving reconciliation in order to unify Arab ranks," according to the Saudi Press Agency.

In a statement after the summit, the leaders said they wanted to settle Arab differences.

The meeting is a prelude to the Arab League summit scheduled for March 29 and 30 in Doha.

"The summit-level talks between the Arab leaders mainly focused on the reconciliation efforts between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria that will be of great help in solving regional issues," said an Arab diplomat after the talks. He added that the meeting has defused the tension among Arab nations and may greatly help Egypt's efforts to mediate reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

The meeting was designed to mark a thaw in frosty relations between Syria on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the other, said analysts. "King Abdullah and Syrian President Assad also held a separate meeting before the four-way Arab summit talks started," the SPA said.

During the meeting, King Abdullah and Assad discussed "issues of mutual interest as well as ways of enhancing cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Syria in various fields," according to the SPA report.

King Abdullah also hosted a lunch in honor of his guests. Several members of royal family, ministers and a large number of high-ranking Saudi, Syrian, Egyptian and Kuwaiti officials attended the banquet.

The delegation accompanying Assad included Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem, chief adviser Buthaina Shaaban and Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

The Saudi government under the leadership of King Abdullah wants to shore up support for the Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel full normalization of ties in return for an end to the occupation of Arab land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Arab states were deeply angered by Israel's 26-day war on Gaza early this year, but differences over how to respond caused a rift within their ranks.

The summit-level talks and the banquet were also attended by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and acting Riyadh Gov. Prince Sattam.

Speaking to reporters after the summit, Prince Saud said Arab leaders would be informed of the details of the Riyadh talks during the upcoming Arab summit in Doha. "Efforts are continuing to improve inter-Arab relations," he added.

The three heads of state left Riyadh yesterday evening.