Leaders of the Arab world descend on Saudi Arabia ahead of summit

The coast city of Dammam will host dozens of heads of state on Sunday

epa06645240 Secretary-General of Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks during a press conference with Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva (not pictured) after their meeting at Necessidades Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, 04 April 2018.  EPA/MARIO CRUZ
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The leaders of the Arab world will arrive in Saudi Arabia this week ahead of the 29th Arab League summit to be held in Dammam, where the Palestinian cause is likely to take centre stage.

The agenda will be set out in the preparatory meeting on Thursday in Riyadh, where the foreign ministers of the 22 countries are expected to meet.

Syria’s membership, however, has been suspended since November 2011 as a result of the civil war.

A diplomatic spat between Qatar and four other Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, has cast doubt over whether the Qatar leadership will attend the annual meeting.

Mahmoud Afifi, the official spokesperson of secretary general of the Arab League, said an invitation was sent to Doha to attend the meeting. It is still unclear whether Qatar will attend.

Turkey and Iran’s influence in the Arab world is likely to feature prominently in the agenda as both countries have been accused of meddling in intra-Arab affairs.

Mr Afifi said attendees of the ‘Dammam Summit’ will also address concerns in Syria, Libya and the unrest in Yemen.

“This meeting will come amid troubling times in the Arab World,” he said.

The heads of several international organizations and non-profits are also expected to attend. The secretary-general of the UN, Antonio Guterres is scheduled to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Mr Afifi said a Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia will also be discussed during the preparatory meetings held in Riyadh.

Economic integration and the establishment of transnational institutions will also be discussed.


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The Arab Summit has been a mainstay for regional politics, but the 29th annual summit marks the first time Dammam hosts the meeting.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League said last week that his organisation wants the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate the recent deaths of 18 Palestinians during protests near Gaza's border with Israel.

Mr Aboul-Gheit also said the Arab League supports Mr Guterres' call for an independent investigation of the killings by Israeli forces.

Last Friday, thousands of Palestinians marched near the border fence between Israel and Gaza. Israel warns that those approaching the border are endangering their lives.

Mr Aboul-Gheit says Palestinians are demanding their rights "and they will not be forgotten or diminished."

He said he hoped the killings would stop because the demonstrations will continue at least until May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel's creation.