The stalled Middle East peace process and Syria’s civil war dominated opening talks at the 25th Arab League Summit, which got under way in Kuwait on Tuesday.
The two-day summit is being held amid deepening divisions among member states, but speakers were united in condemning what they described as Israel’s aggression against Palestine and the bloodshed in Syria.
Following an opening recitation from the Quran, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, whose nation chaired last year’s meeting, called on Israel to withdraw completely from all Arab territories.
Syria, deaths from conflict, March 25, 2014
The secretary-general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, later applauded U.S. efforts to forge peace in the region, but blamed Israeli settlement expansion and other policies for the stalemate.
He went on to say that Arab nations would be forced to look at what he called “non-traditional ways of solving the problem.” However, he did not elaborate.
Regarding Syria, the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, said the U.N. Security Council must do more to solve the conflict, arguing that it now “threatens the security and stability of the world.”
Syria’s seat is empty at this year’s summit, although the president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Ahmad al-Jarba, was invited to address delegates.
“It’s your battle,” Jarba said of the lengthy war. "Keeping Syria’s seat empty in your midst sends a clear message to [Syria's President Bashar al-] Assad that he can kill and that the seat will wait for him to resolve his war."
The opposition leader also said Syrian embassies in Arab capitals should be given to the National Coalition.
Syria’s opposition attended the previous Arab League Summit in Doha, but officials say the grouping must complete certain legal requirements before participating again.
Promoting Arab solidarity and combating terrorism were other topics heavily spoken of on Tuesday.
Although alluded to several times, the recent rift between Qatar and three of its neighbors — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — was not publicly addressed.
The three nations withdrew their ambassadors from Doha this month after accusing the Qataris of jeopardizing regional security by backing the Muslim Brotherhood.
Officials in Kuwait have suggested that talks aimed at Gulf reconciliation may be held on the sidelines of the summit, which concludes on Wednesday.