Arab League backs Palestinian rejection of Israel as ‘Jewish state’

The statement at the end of a two-day League summit dismissed the Jewish-state demand that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has insisted on during peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

KUWAIT CITY // Arab leaders unanimously endorsed a Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state in a declaration issued at their annual summit on Wednesday.

After two days of talks in the Kuwaiti capital, the Arab League was united in its rejection of Israeli demands but the final communique made no direct mention of the divisions between Arabian Gulf countries and Qatar, and did not act on the Syrian opposition’s request for sophisticated weaponry.

The statement at the end of a two-day League summit in Kuwait dismissed the Jewish-state demand that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has insisted on during US-sponsored peace negotiations with the Palestinians. That refusal gives added backing to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who says he does not want to carry on with the already faltering talks after their nine-month deadline expires next month.

“We hold Israel entirely responsible for the lack of progress in the peace process and continuing tension in the Middle East,” the communique said. “We express our absolute and decisive rejection to recognising Israel as a Jewish state.”

The Arab League did, however, vow to work towards healing ties between Arab countries.

“We pledge to work decisively to put a final end to divisions,” the league’s statement read.

The diplomatic spat between Qatar and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain was kept off the official agenda at the summit.

The latter three countries withdrew their ambassadors from Doha this month in retaliation for Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nor did the Arab leaders agree to an appeal by Syria’s opposition for advanced arms in a three-year civil war against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad that has killed over 140,000 people and displaced millions.

In their communique, the Arab leaders condemned the killing of civilians by Mr Al Assad’s forces in Syria but stopped short of acting on an impassioned plea at the summit on Monday for support for refugees and rebel fighters by the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Jarba.

A failure to deliver more aid to rebels — including heavy weaponry — has angered some Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, whose crown prince, Sheikh Salman bin Abdulaziz, on Monday accused the international community of “betraying” Syria by failing to offer support to the opposition.

Referring to principles for ending the civil war that were drawn up in the Swiss city two years ago, yesterday’s statement called for a “political solution” to the crisis in Syria — an apparent compromise made with Syrian-government supporters, such as Lebanon, Iraq and Algeria — based on the Geneva I declaration. Neither the Syrian government nor rebels were represented at that meeting.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the massacres and the mass killing committed by the Syrian regime’s forces against the unarmed people,” said the communique, which was read aloud at the end of the summit by Kuwait’s foreign ministry undersecretary, Khaled Al Jarallah.

The decision not to address the dispute between Qatar and its Arabian Gulf neighbours appeared to be a deliberate move. GCC states — which consist of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait — prefer to sort out their difference behind closed doors.

Very little about the spat had been discussed at the summit, a diplomat familiar with sideline discussions said on Monday, but that there had been some “heated remarks about Egypt behind closed doors”.

Qatar backed the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo that was toppled last summer by the military, which runs an interim government backed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The diplomat said that “Qatar has made comments about how things should happen in Egypt and Egypt says it is for them to decide”.

In an editorial yesterday in the Kuwaiti Arab Times, Ahmed Al Jarallah, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, expressed frustration about a lack of decision-making at the summit.

Arab leaders have gathered, he wrote, to “ponder on the same speech about the Palestinian cause for which they have done nothing. Recently, the Syrian cause was added to that of the Palestinian; yet their statements or speeches have been the same for the last 68 years”.

hnaylor@thenational.ae

Published: March 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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