Arab League leaders yesterday called for an international probe into the “criminal” use of chemical weapons in Syria and condemned what they see as Iran’s interference in the affairs of other countries.
Regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran have for decades been locked in a struggle for supremacy.
“We stress our absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons against the sisterly Syrian people and we demand an independent international investigation to guarantee the application of international law to everyone proven to use chemical weapons,” said a document distributed to journalists.
It emphasised the need for a political solution to the multi-sided Syrian war, which has killed at least half a million people in the past seven years.
A previous statement read out at the close of the summit in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran did not mention Syria.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have expressed support for Saturday’s missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France against three alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, while other Arab states such as Iraq and Lebanon have condemned the strikes.
The Syrian government denies using or possessing chemical weapons and said the strikes were an act of aggression.
Military help over the past three years from Russia and Iran, which also backs Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and militias in Iraq, has allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him.
The communique called for additional international sanctions on Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed co-operating with the Arab League on regional security, specifically in Iraq and Syria following the defeat of Islamic State militants there, according to Russian news agencies.
Saudi Arabia, which takes over the rotating chair of the Arab summit from Jordan, announced that the current gathering would be named the “Quds (Jerusalem) Summit”, a reference to US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which Arab states condemned.
Delegates pledged in the closing statement to support the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
King Salman said Saudi Arabia was donating $200mn to support them, including $50mn for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Qatar did not send a senior official to Dhahran.
The Qatari delegation was headed by Doha’s permanent representative to the Arab League, Saif bin Muqaddam al-Buainain, Qatar’s state news agency said, without elaborating.
Most of the 22 other countries were represented by heads of state or government.
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