Accessibility links

Arab Ranks Divided as Pressure Mounts to Hold Gaza Summit

Arab leaders and diplomats are engaged in an increasingly bitter quarrel over the need to hold an emergency summit to discuss a cease-fire in Gaza, where the death toll has now risen to more than 1,000. Diplomatic efforts continued Thursday in Cairo where Israeli envoy Amos Gilad has been conveying Israel's position to Egyptian mediators.

Arabs leaders and diplomats are taking their deep divisions over the conflict in Gaza into the open, as Arab public pressure mounts to do something. Egyptian mediators raced against the clock to broker a truce, conferring four hours with Israeli Assistant Defense Minister Amos Gilad in Cairo.

A Hamas delegation, from both the Gaza Strip and Damascus also met with Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman, Wednesday.

Salah Bardawil, a member of the Hamas delegation, indicated that he was waiting to hear Israel's response to his group's position over a cease-fire.

He said that Hamas has not received an official [Israeli] response, so far, but that with the return of [Israel's] envoy [to Cairo], there should be clarifications in the next few hours about what was said, and the Egyptians are obliged to convey them.

Israel also sent a top diplomat to Washington to seek international guarantees that Hamas would not re-arm. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev indicated that there was "momentum" in negotiations and Israel was hopeful a deal was "close and attainable."

Meanwhile, Arab leaders have yet to agree on calls for an emergency summit in Qatar, despite repeated calls from Qatar's Emir Hamad ben Jassem al Thani to hold one to discuss the Gaza conflict. Emir Hamad said earlier that it was urgent to hold the summit and to take action.

He said that the number of casualties in Gaza has practically doubled since he first called for a summit, and that despite the realities of world politics it is our duty to come up with a joint [Arab] position and make decisions that have clout.

Arab League Chief Amr Moussa, however, indicated that only 13 of the necessary 15 Arab states have called for a summit, and absent a quorum, the Qatar summit will remain open for discussion, while Arab Foreign Ministers proceed with a Friday meeting in Kuwait to discuss the crisis.

Moussa deplored the increasingly bitter quarrel among Arab leaders, alluding to tensions between the more moderate Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and other states such as Syria that support Hamas.

He complained that, regrettably, there's a lot of tension among Arab states, and that he hadn't expected this situation and did not want it to occur….but that in their eagerness to put an end to the conflict, Arab leaders have gone off onto futile tangents.

At the same time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, whose country supports Hamas, both militarily and financially, chastised Saudi King Abdallah, urging him to "speak out about the situation in Gaza." He also denounced Israel for its invasion of Gaza, saying once again that it "no longer has the right to exist as a Jewish state in the region."