UPDATE – Arab summit opens in Saudi Arabia


By Mohamed Fahd

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia (AA) – Arab leaders opened their annual summit in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran on Sunday.

Sixteen Arab leaders are attending the 29th summit, which comes one day after the U.S., France and Britain launched a joint airstrike in Syria in the wake of a suspected chemical attack by regime forces.

The Syrian conflict, the Palestinian issue and alleged Iranian interference are expected to dominate discussions during the one-day event.

In his opening speech to the summit, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz reiterated that East Jerusalem will remain part of the Palestinian territories.

"The Palestinian cause has been and will always be our main cause until the Palestinians regain their rights," he said.

"East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories," he stressed.

Sunday’s summit comes three months after the U.S. officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, triggering world outcry.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since 1967 — might eventually serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Turning to the ongoing conflict in neighboring Yemen, the Saudi king reiterated commitment to Yemen’s unity and territorial integrity.

He underlined his support for efforts aimed at reaching a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, which fell into civil war in 2014 when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.

The Saudi monarch renewed accusations for Iran of supporting terrorism and interfering in Arab affairs.

"We strongly condemn the terrorist acts carried out by Iran in the region and reject its blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries," he said.

On Saturday, the umbrella Arab League said the summit will not discuss Gulf crisis, which was triggered by last year’s cut-off of diplomatic ties between four Arab states and Qatar amid accusations for Doha of supporting terrorism.

The last Arab summit was held in Jordan last year.