Arab officials and foreign ministers at the Meeting of Foreign Ministers on Thursday ahead of the 29th Arab Summit in Riyadh. REUTERS PIC

THERE have been 40 summits of Arab leaders in the last 70 years. These include some 11 emergency summits.

But today’s Arab summit in Saudi Arabia is worth keeping an eye on. The one-day summit, being held in Dhahran, comes amid a lot of things happening in the Middle East.

There are 22 members of the Arab League but Syria’s membership has been suspended since 2011 because of the civil war.

The gathering comes as America, Britain and France yesterday launched a coordinated airstrike in Syria to punish the regime for a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 70 people.

Donald Trump, the US president, announced the strikes in a late night address from the White House on Friday.

Topping the agenda will be the Palestinian issue, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir.

The fate of occupied Jerusalem is on the summit’s agenda, as the United States prepares to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city after declaring it the capital of Israel.

Saudi Arabia’s push for a tough stand against its arch-rival Iran will also dominate the summit as regional tensions grow over the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia will use the summit to seek Arab support to pile the pressure on Iran.

Al-Jubeir stressed that terrorism must be dealt with firmly and the sources of its funding should be dried up.

He emphasised that there won’t be peace and stability in the region as long as Iran continues its intervention by inciting sectarian strife and supporting the Houthi militias besides harbouring Al-Qaeda leaders.

“Iran and terrorism are two sides of the same coin in the region,” he said, while stressing that Houthi militias bear full responsibility for the crisis in Yemen.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, said that the serious crises in the region facilitated foreign interference.

He noted that the victory over Daesh (so-called Islamic State) must be consolidated by calling for the reconstruction of the affected areas. Gheit condemned Iranian interference in Bahrain and other Arab countries.

Iran has long been a supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and backs Lebanon’s Shia Hizbollah movement, whose fighters are deployed in Syria alongside regime forces.

Iran also openly supports the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen in their war against the Saudi-backed government but denies accusations of smuggling arms to the insurgents.

Not at the summit is Qatar, which has been cut off from its Gulf allies over accusations of ties to Iran and support for extremists — claims denied by Doha.

jalil@nst.com.my

The writer feels in a digital world, the winner does not always take all

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