World’s Eyes On Arab Summit


The leaders are expected to reach agreement by consensus on many of the region’s issues — Iraq, Lebanon, the Darfur problem in Sudan and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The leaders are also expected to re-launch the Arab peace initiative, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.



In preparatory talks on Monday, Arab foreign ministers agreed to revive the plan. It offers Israel normalization of relations if Tel Aviv withdraws from all lands it occupied in 1967, permits the creation of a Palestinian state and allows the return of Palestinian refugees. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the Arab peace proposal would be registered at the United Nations as an international proposal and a basis for peace in the Middle East.



In addition, the leaders are expected to discuss ways to develop education in the Arab world, the establishment of a unified Arab customs union, the revival of inter-Arab commerce and nuclear energy for nonmilitary uses.



Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah invited United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to attend the summit as a special guest. The secretary-general will attend the opening and closing sessions.



Also attending as special invited guests are Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. The Kingdom has also invited the representatives of several Asian, South American, and European countries.



King Abdullah yesterday received a number of Arab heads of state as they arrived in the capital.



They included Syrian President Bashar Assad with whom the King later held a closed-door meeting. This was their first meeting after last summer’s Lebanon war.



Over the past 61 years, 18 Arab summits have been held. The Palestinian problem along with the right of the Palestinian people to a state has always been the center of discussion. The first Arab summit was in Egypt in 1946 at the request of the late King Farouk. Seven Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, which formed the Arab League at that time, participated in the meeting.



In 1967 after Israel occupied the West Bank, Sinai and the Golan Heights, Arab leaders called for an urgent meeting in Khartoum. They strongly protested the Jewish state’s occupation of Arab lands and refused to negotiate with Israel unless it withdrew completely from the occupied territories.



Saudi Arabia continues to lobby the Arab and Islamic cause both in the region and in the world beyond. The Kingdom was successful in bringing Palestinians to Makkah, paving the way for a unified Palestinian government.


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