Arab leaders patch up differences over Gaza: Qatar


Differences over how to deal with the Israeli offensive that killed more than 1,300 people highlighted the divide between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and their allies on one side, and Syria, Qatar and their allies on the other.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have tended to lean towards Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, while Syria and Qatar have been more sympathetic to Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since routing Abbas’ forces in June 2007.

King Abdullah, leader of regional powerbroker Saudi Arabia, called on Arabs at the summit opening to rise above their differences and hosted a lunch that brought together the leaders of Kuwait, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Qatar, Qatar premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told Al Jazeera TV.

"This speech prepared for a reconciliation led today by (King Abdullah) with … the emir of Kuwait," Sheikh Hamad said.

"There was clear word from these leaders for a real, clear reconciliation, from the heart. We left with an understanding that undoubtedly a new page had been turned that would benefit and strengthen the Arab position…"

Clusters of Arab leaders have held three meetings in the last five days, a flurry that underscored their divisions.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia had shunned a meeting in Doha to discuss the Gaza crisis, at which Qatar and Mauritania froze ties with Israel and Syria pronounced a 2002 Arab peace initiative dead.

They preferred instead to discuss the Gaza crisis at the previously scheduled economic summit taking place in Kuwait.

Egypt, the only Arab state bordering Gaza, negotiated with both Hamas and Israel to reach the shaky ceasefire now in place. But it has been criticised in the Arab world for cooperating with the Israeli blockade of Gaza in recent months.

Arab divisions overshadowed all items on the agenda in Kuwait, with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak launching a strong verbal attack on critics of Egypt’s policy.

Sheikh Hamad said there were some misunderstandings over the Doha meeting, which was not meant to replace Kuwait’s summit.

"We hope now that we can put our hands together … to strengthen the Arab position," Sheikh Hamad said.


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