Tunis: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Ebrahim Al Assaf, has condemned Iran’s interfence in the Arab world, particularly in Syria and Yemen.
He was speaking at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Tunisia, ahead of Sunday’s annual Arab Summit meeting.
Arabs have long complained of Iran’s meddling in their internal affairs and fomenting sectarian strife in the region.
Arab leaders will be meeting during a time where Syria is wrapping up its eight-year civil war, while rival factions in Yemen and Libya are still at war.
Arab League Chief, Ahmad Abu Al Gheit, called on Friday for a political solution in all three countries.
Meanwhile, Al Assaf said that he hopes to unify the Syrian opposition ahead of talks with the Syrian regime.
While Bashar Al Assad has seemingly won the war—with the help of Iran and Russia—there is still pressure in the international community for him to make political concessions.
While is its unclear whether an emboldened Al Assad will feel the need to do so, a unified Syrian opposition would be essential in getting any sort of concessions out of him.
The war has left nearly a half a million people dead and created millions of refugees in what was dubbed as the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st cenutry.
Syria remains expelled from the Arab League since the war began in 2011, but some Arab states want Syria to be readmited.
Syria will not be attending Sunday’s meeting as a consensus has not been reached yet whether or not to let Syria back in.
Mahmoud Khemiri, a spokesman for the summit, said Al Assad’s reintegration “isn’t foreseeable at the current time.”
However, more Arab leaders have been testing the waters for rapproachment with Syria.
In December Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir was the first Arab leader to visit Damascus and meet with Al Assad.
Later in the month, the UAE reopened its embassy in the Syrian capital.
Some Gulf states prefer to reengage with Al Assad to bring Syria back into the Arab fold as Iran and Turkey currently hold major sway inside the country.
Another focus of the Arab Leage summit, will be the US recognition of the Occupied Golan as Israeli.
Israel occupied the Syrian territory during the 1967 war and later annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognised internationally.
However, the US administration of Donald Trump, in an unprecedented move, recognised Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, this past week.
It was widely condemned by Arab and regional leaders and will figure prominently at Sunday’s summit.
On Friday, Abu Al Gheit reitterated that the Golan was Syrian territory, rejecting the recent US decision.
Arab leaders hope to project unified opposition to the Trump administration’s acceptance of Israeli occupation over the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.
This year, Algeria’s ailing President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika and Al Bashir will skip the meeting as they contend with weekly mass protests against their long reigns.
The protests in both countries will also not be on the summit’s agenda.
Eight years after Arab Spring protests swept the region, threatening the future of the political order long upheld by the Arab League, protesters are again taking to the streets in Algeria and Sudan, calling for the resignation of two of the longest-serving Arab leaders.
Bouteflika, in office since 1999, canceled the April 18 presidential election and withdrew his bid for a fifth term, but announced a transition process that opponents fear could keep him in power indefinitely. The 82-year-old has rarely been seen in public and has not addressed the nation in person since a 2013 stroke.
Earlier this week, Algeria’s top general called for initiating a constitutional process to declare Bouteflika unfit to serve, in a bid to address the mass protests held since Feb. 22. But opposition parties denounced the idea, fearing it would leave the secretive elite in power.
In Sudan, protests sparked by an economic crisis in December quickly morphed into calls for the resignation of Al Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989. He has shown no sign of stepping down.
Palestine to dominate summit
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh Al Maliki said that Palestine would ask the Arab states to adopt a clear stance towards the decision by some countries to transfer their embassies to Occupied Jerusalem or to open commercial offices with diplomatic representation.
The US, under the Trump administration, has moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem, in a major break with traditional US policy.
Palestine will also ask the Arab summit in Tunis to announce a clear stance towards Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ for peace with Israel,” Al Maliki said.
He added that the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights is the beginning of the implementation of the so-called Deal of the Century.
Trump has touted, since he assumed office, a plan to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, dubbed the ‘Deal of the Century’.
However, his staff have been extremely tight-lipped over the details of the plan.
Palestinians expect it to be majorly biased in favour of Israel, especially because the Trump administration is considered to be the most pro-Israeli in US history.