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Arab League Summit opens as Kuwaiti emir urges nations to solve rifts


His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said's representative His Highness Sayyid Assad bin Taraq Al Said (L) and Egypt President Adly Mansour talk at the opening of the 25th Arab League Summit in Bayan Palace, Kuwait. Photo - Reuters

Kuwit City: An Arab League summit kicked off in Kuwait on Tuesday with a call by Syria's opposition for "sophisticated" arms, while Saudi Arabia stressed the need for a change in military balance to "end the impasse".

Kuwait urged Arab leaders to resolve a lengthening list of disputes complicating crises such as Syria's war and political strife in the biggest Arab state, Egypt.

Kuwait's Emir His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah urged Arab countries to solve rifts he said were blocking joint Arab action.

"The dangers around us are enormous and we will not move towards joint Arab action without our unity and without casting aside our difference," Sheikh Sabah, the summit host, said.

UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, however, insisted on the need for a "political solution" to the conflict, urging an "end to the supply of arms to all parties".

The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Jarba, repeated calls on the international community to supply rebels with "sophisticated weapons".  

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Abdulaziz accused the world of "betraying" the opposition by failing to arm them and leaving them as "easy prey".

Prince Salman urged support for the rebels, insisting that a solution to the conflict, in which regime forces have recently made significant advances, required a "change in the balance on the ground to end the impasse".

Jarba told the summit that a decision not to hand over Syria's seat in the Arab League to the opposition sends a wrong message to Assad, telling him to continue "to kill".

The Syria government's repression of protests which erupted in March 2011 resulted in its suspension from the Cairo-based Arab League.

Its seat was allocated to the National Coalition at the last summit, in Doha in 2013, but has not been handed over because, according to Arab League chief Nabil Al Arabi, the Syrian oppossition has yet to meet the legal requirements.

Qatar's Emir His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in his address to the gathering, accused the Syrian government of lying in "pretending to accept a political solution" but was in fact "buying time".     

Urging revival of peace talks, UN peace envoy Brahimi said: "I call upon Europe, the United Nations and the United States to take clear steps to reactivate the Geneva talks," whose last round broke off on February 15 without setting a date for further negotiations.

"There is no military solution," stressed Brahimi.

He had said on Monday that a further round of talks was "out of the question for the time being".

The annual summit of the 22-member League also heard an appeal from him, for an end the flow of arms to the combatants in the war, which has killed over 140,000 people and forced millions to flee.
Brahimi did not name the suppliers.

"The whole region is in danger," of being dragged into the conflict, Brahimi said.

Brahimi said Lebanon was in particular danger of being sucked into the conflict.

This appeared to be a reference to recent sectarian clashes in northern Lebanon and bomb attacks in areas controlled by Lebanon's Hezbollah.

On Monday Lebanon's foreign minister called on Arab states to support the Lebanese army to counter fallout from Syria's war, which he said threatened to tear the country apart.

While the Syrian conflict is taking centre stage at the summit, a regional rift over Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has been kept off the agenda.

Kuwait said 13 heads of state were attending the meeting.

Though Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah named no country, shortly before the gathering he, smiling broadly, stood between Saudi Crown Prince Salman and Qatar's Emir His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin
Hamad Al Thani, holding hands with them in an apparent attempt to convey a mood of reconciliation.

But a Kuwaiti official said the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours was not expected to be on the summit's agenda.

"Gulf reconciliation, and Gulf issues are something for inside the Gulf house," said Khaled Al Jarallah, Kuwaiti undersecretary for foreign affairs.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi told reporters it was not possible to forge a compromise with Qatar during the summit because "the wound is too deep".

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors from fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Qatar in protest at Doha's perceived support of the Muslim Brotherhood, branded a outlawed organisation by Cairo and Riyadh.

On the Palestinian issue, Arab leaders are expected to call for $100 million in monthly aid for the Palestinian Authority and to reject demands by Israel that Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, fresh from talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington last week, will brief his Arab counterparts during the summit.

The meeting was expected also to discuss Iran, which has improved its ties with Western powers since the election of President Hassan Rouhani.
Click on the link below to view the 25th Arab League Summit
http://www.timesofoman.com/Snapshot/PhotoAlbum-137.aspx

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