Arab, South America leaders stress support for Palestinians
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Arab and South American leaders found common ground in support for the Palestinians during a summit Wednesday aimed at strengthening ties between the two regions.
Venezuela’s president and Saudi Arabia’s monarch specifically mentioned the Palestinian cause in their public remarks. The summit’s final statement also called for the creation of a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem.
Latin American countries have been among the most vocal critics of Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories, with several recalling their ambassadors for consultations to protest Israeli actions during last year’s Gaza war. Venezuela is among a handful of South American countries that broke ties with Israel altogether in the past over its actions in Gaza.
Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, by championing Palestinian statehood as part of a broader battle against perceived Western imperialism.
Saudi King Salman opened the two-day summit by commending Latin American countries for their foreign policy stances, particularly with regard to the Palestinians.
This is the fourth Arab-South American summit to bring together top officials from the Arab League’s 22 member states and 12 countries from South America. Notably absent were officials from Syria, which was suspended from the Arab League following the 2011 uprising.
Saudi Arabia, which hosted this year’s summit, backs the rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. The summit’s final statement affirmed the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
It also called for a solution to the impasse in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition allied with the internationally recognized government is battling Shiite Houthi rebels supported by Riyadh’s regional rival Iran.
The summit’s final statement said leaders reject “interference from outside” parties in Arab affairs. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir offered a more direct statement to reporters, saying the summit rejects Iranian interference in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
The Arab-Latin American meeting, held every three years, began in Brazil in 2005, followed by summits in Qatar and Peru. It is scheduled to be held next in 2018 in Venezuela.
Summit attendees point out that trade between the two regions has reached $33 billion, compared to just $6 billion a decade ago. Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said leaders agreed to increase flights between the two regions.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also took part in the summit, noting that Latin America has the biggest Arab diaspora in the world and that several Latin American presidents have been of Arab descent.
Heads of state who attended include Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa.
Other Latin American countries that participated in the summit include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Suriname.
Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates