Calls for unity as Arab leaders meet

Arab leaders gathered Wednesday for an annual summit where the call for Palestinian statehood is to take center stage.

The Saudi-proposed initiative offers Israel full diplomatic recognition from the Arab states in return for an Israeli withdrawal from Arab land occupied in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Arab leaders have failed to reach a common ground for a solution in Syria, leaving at least 320,000 killed during the six-year war and millions displaced.

Gathering in Amman for the 2017 Arab Summit, Arab leaders looked out from their venue on to the Israeli occupied West Bank.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the summit signaled that the Arab world is willing to work with the Trump administration to negotiate a two-state deal.

Israel's intelligence minister, Israel Katz, said that although the Palestinian issue can not be ignored, it is important to address the region's many other challenges, including the Islamic State, the increasing threat posed by Iran through its proxies, and the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Palestinians fear Israel wants to divide it, a charge Israel denies.

President Donald Trump is "serious" about solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said ahead of a meeting with the United States leader.

Many Arab countries especially of the rich-oil Gulf monarchies blame Iran for its intervention and slam its activities in the region.

The agreement comes weeks after Trump tossed a diplomatic wrench into the Middle East peace process by seemingly stepping back from a decades-long USA commitment to eventual Palestinian statehood.

The talks between the three leaders, held on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit by the Dead Sea, emphasised "Egypt's and Jordan's backing for the legitimate rights of Palestinians, in addition to setting up an independent Palestinian state", according to a statement by Egypt's presidency late on Wednesday.

"In this meeting, positions were coordinated in what should be said or focused on regarding the Palestinian issue" the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that Abbas would seek to "influence" the administration's position on Mideast diplomacy.

The Arab leaders urged unity and the need for peaceful solutions but had few specific plans to offer.

"Israel is continuing to expand settlements and wreck chances of peace", King Abdullah of Jordan tells summit.

Previous Arab League summits have seen little progress in overcoming divisions, and analysts had expected more of the same this time.

He has not been invited since Syria's suspension from the 22-member Arab League following his crackdown on a 2011 uprising that quickly turned into a brutal civil war.

In a short speech at the opening of the Arab Summit, the Saudi monarch, whose country has backed rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashaw al Assad, said the Syrian people were subjected to "killing and displacement" but did not refer to Assad.

Also in attendance in Jordan was Sudan's President Omar al Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged genocide and war crimes in Darfur.

  • Leroy Wright