Saudi Arabia's King Salman praised European efforts to defend the Palestinian cause and stressed his own country’s support for the stateless nation.
The Palestinian issue is the “first concern” for Arab countries, the Saudi monarch said on Sunday at the opening of the first EU-Arab summit at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh.
“We reaffirm our firm position towards the restoration of all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, foremost of which is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he told the meeting, which is aimed at increasing Arab-European co-operation on trade, security and migration.
King Salman gets frequent updates on developments in Palestine from conversations with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is also attending the summit.
“The resolution of the Palestinian issue is important not only for the stability of the Middle East but to the stability of the world and Europe in particular, and in this regard we appreciate the European efforts to find a just solution to this issue,” King Salmam said.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is heading to the region to discuss a long-awaited US proposal for peace in Palestine.
Mr Kushner is expected to visit every GCC country during a week-long trip to brief officials on the economic aspects of the plan.
But Arab officials are seemingly more concerned with the politics of the peace plan, which Mr Kushner said will not be revealed until after Israeli elections in April.
Kuwait's Emir Sabah Al Ahmad told leaders at the summit that neglecting the Palestinian issue would cause more tension in the Middle East.
"What we see today as hotbeds of tension in our region is due to this issue being overlooked and not achieving a just and comprehensive solution that the brotherly Palestinian people and the entire Arab people look forward to," the Kuwaiti ruler said.
He praised the European community's "progressive role" in the Palestinian cause, but said the Arab world was looking for "greater engagement and initiatives with this central issue and to make it a top priority for the international community”.
King Salman also called on the international community to apply pressure on Iran to stop supporting militias in the Middle East and cease its meddling in the region.
“The Iranian regime is supporting militias in the region, with its aggressive practices and blatant interference in the affairs of other countries,” he said.
Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen is undermining the kingdom’s efforts to find a political solution to the civil war, he said, and added that Saudi Arabia continues to make efforts to ensure the success of negotiations and the ceasefire agreement reached at talks in Sweden in December.
Arab and European leaders continued their discussions on regional challenges and co-operation on Monday.