19 August 2018

Arab leaders mute on Syria strikes at Saudi summit

KONFRONTASI-Leaders at the Arab League summit have failed to discuss the US-led strikes that came as a result of the "criminal" alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The summit took place in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, a day after the coordinated attacks by the US, UK and France on three sites allegedly linked to the production of chemical weapons in Syria.

According to a summit spokesman, the leaders were to discuss the Syrian conflict but not the strikes that targeted the sites near Damascus as well as in the province of Homs.

The leaders called for an international probe while condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after the summit.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar have previously issued statements in support of the action while Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon expressed concern.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has denied using or possessing chemical weapons, was not present at the meeting after the country was suspended from the group in 2011.

Al Jazeera's senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said it was "odd" that the recent strikes in Syria were not on the agenda.

"It couldn't get more odd," he said. "It's what you call a bottomless summit."

Jerusalem move 'null and illegitimate'

In their closing statement on Sunday, Arab leaders rejected President Donald Trump's decision of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel "null and illegitimate". 

Breaking with years of US policy, Trump also announced the US embassy would move to Jerusalem, drawing international condemnation and sparking a wave of heated protests around the world.

In response, Saudi Arabia renamed this year's summit "Quds [Jerusalem] Summit". 

"We confirm that East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the Palestinian land," Saudi King Salman said. 

The status of Jerusalem, which is home to holy religious sites and has particular significance for Muslims, Christians and Jews, has long remained a sensitive topic and one of the core issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

"Washington says it has taken the Jerusalem file off the negotiation table," said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"This violates international law and is a precedent that we consider a major setback."

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