Emir of Kuwait His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, centre, Kuwait’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, right, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al Arabi, left attend the closing session of the 25th Arab Summit held at Bayan Palace, Kuwait City, on Wednesday. Photo – Reuters
Kuwait City: Arab leaders called on Wednesday for a political solution to the conflict in Syria, overlooking Saudi-backed demands for greater military support for rebel forces to tip the balance in the war.
They were united, however, after a two-day summit in Kuwait in siding with the Palestinians in refusing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, a flashpoint issue threatening to derail US-brokered peace talks.
Syria's opposition National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba called at the opening of the summit for the rebels to be supplied with "sophisticated" weaponry.
"I do not ask you for a declaration of war," he said in a speech to Arab leaders, calling for pressure on world powers to fulfil pledges to supply arms.
Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz said the world was "betraying" rebels by failing to arm them and leaving them "easy prey". But the final declaration read out at the end of the summit called instead for a political solution to the three-year conflict which has cost over 146,000 lives.
"We call for a political solution to the crisis in Syria based on the Geneva I communique," calling for a peaceful transition of power, they said. The communique, drawn up at an international conference in 2012 in the Swiss city, calls for a "peaceful transition" in Syria without specifying the fate of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
"We strongly condemn the massacres committed by the Syrian regime against unarmed people," leaders of the 22-member Arab League said.
They reaffirmed their "total support for the Syrian National Coalition as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people."
Although last year's annual Arab summit, held in Doha, allocated Syria's seat to the National Coalition, it remained vacant at Kuwait's meeting.
The opposition has yet to meet the legal requirements, according to Arab League chief Nabil Al Arabi, whose organisation is divided over the conflict in Syria.
A clearly dissatisfied Jarba said that the decision "sends a message to the Assad regime encouraging it to continue to kill Syrians".
The Syria government's brutal repression of protests which erupted in March 2011 had resulted in its suspension from the Cairo-based Arab League.
The "Kuwait Declaration" made no mention of arming the rebels, although the Doha summit stressed the "right of every state to offer all forms of self-defence, including military", to the opposition.
The declaration echoed UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who called at the summit for a political solution and urged an "end to the supply of arms to all parties".
Separately, Arab leaders announced their "total rejection of the call to consider Israel a Jewish state," in the final statement.
The Palestinians recognised Israel at the start of the peace process in the early 1990s. Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas told the summit that Palestinians "reject even discussing the issue".
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now insists they acknowledge it as the national homeland of the Jewish people, in a move which would effectively torpedo the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees.