Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Arab League demands probe on Syria chemical attack

Arab League demands probe on Syria chemical attack

Heads of state and top officials from 21 Arab states will attend the summit excluding Syria that was suspended from the league in 2011 over Syrian regime's crackdown on protesters after peaceful protests in the southern part of the country.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday declared its full support for US-led air raids on Syria, which the Pentagon said had "successfully hit every target".

The Arab leaders participating in the summit have affirmed centrality of the Palestinian issue and importance of the status of eastern Jerusalem as the capital of the future state of Palestine.

Last December, Trump reversed decades of USA policy by announcing the United States' recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The question of Jerusalem is also likely to figure prominently at the summit as the United States prepares to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv after declaring the disputed city the capital of Israel in a break with decades of global diplomacy.

In an opening speech, Saudi Arabia's King Salman also criticized Iran's "blatant interference in other countries".

Arab ministers at a preliminary meeting in Riyadh on Thursday focused heavily on blocking the move, unanimously condemning Trump's decision.

He also announced a $150m (£105m) donation for the maintenance of Islamic heritage in East Jerusalem, including the Al Aqsa mosque, and $50m (£35m) in funding for the United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees.

Earlier this month, the monarch reiterated the kingdom's "steadfast stance on the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital".

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

The remark suggested increasing rapprochement with Israel, which like Riyadh, sees Tehran as its arch rival.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have for decades been locked in a struggle for regional supremacy that is now being played out in proxy wars in several countries, including Yemen and Syria.

Saudi Arabia and allies expressed support for the strikes on Saturday, but Iraq and Lebanon have condemned them.

The rift between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain will not be on the summit's agenda. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of genocide and two counts of war crimes.

The Arab League was founded in 1945 to protect newly-won independence throughout the region.

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