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King discusses Syria, Mideast peace with Arab leaders
Amman, 21 January 2013

His Majesty King Abdullah on Monday participated in the third Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Riyadh, attending the opening session alongside several Arab leaders.

On the sidelines of the summit, King Abdullah met with the leaders of Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon and Bahrain, and discussed the Syrian crisis and efforts to revive Middle East peace talks.

During a meeting with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, His Majesty stressed the need to support Palestinian reconciliation efforts. He also called for finding means to help the Palestinians deal with their difficult economic hardships and empower them to regain their legitimate rights.

The King said more regional and international efforts were needed to revive peace negotiations based on the two-state solution and reach the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian national soil.

Discussions also covered the need to find an immediate solution for the Syrian crisis that would end the suffering of the Syrian people and preserve their unity.

His Majesty highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts to provide Syrian refugees, whose number exceeds 300,000, with humanitarian services.

The King and Morsi also called for improving joint Arab action, expressing hope that the summit would result in entrenching solidarity among Arab countries and meet the aspirations of their nations.

The two leaders also discussed means to improve economic cooperation, especially in the fields of energy and trade.

His Majesty’s talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas focused on reviving peace talks to arrive at the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation.

The two leaders warned of the negative effects of Israel’s unilateral measures, especially its settlement activities, on the viability of peace, stressing that such actions are a major obstacle to reviving negotiations.

They also touched upon the Syrian crisis and its implications on the region and called for enhancing Arab cooperation.

Discussions during the King’s meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati focused on the deteriorating situation in Syria, in addition to other regional issues.

The King and the prime minister underscored the need to end the Syrian crisis and put an end to the bloodshed, calling on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards Syrian refugees by supporting the capabilities of host countries.

Mikati underlined the importance of the Joint Lebanese-Jordanian Higher Committee meetings, slated to be held in Amman soon, in boosting bilateral cooperation.

His Majesty’s talks with Bahraini King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifah focused on regional developments and means to boost cooperation.

The two leaders also discussed the humanitarian crisis arising from the conflict in Syria and Bahrain’s support to Jordan in its efforts to serve Syrian refugees.

At the summit’s opening session, Arab leaders called for strengthening mutual trade and cooperation in order to face the challenges brought on by the Arab Spring uprisings.

“We should achieve an Arab common market,” Morsi said, urging Arab nations to “catch up” in the realm of free trade.

“Very little has been done to improve trade between Arab countries,” which reportedly accounts for no more than 10 per cent of total Arab commerce, he said.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, who deputised for Saudi King Abdullah as host of the summit, highlighted the economic and social challenges facing the region and also pointed to weak inter-Arab trade.

“The urgent development issues that face our countries are very difficult, including poverty, unemployment and disease. Efforts must be made to confront and eliminate them,” he said.

Arab foreign ministers, who met ahead of the summit, prepared a draft agreement on inter-Arab investment, which if approved would allow a free flow of investments and capital between states, Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf said.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil El Araby said the Arab world is in dire need of more initiatives to improve peoples’ economic and social situation, calling on regional and international stakeholders to continue their efforts to mitigate the hardships facing Palestinians due to the Israeli occupation.

The 22 Arab states have a total population of more than 367 million, but total Arab gross domestic product represents no more than three per cent of global gross domestic product.

The Arab region sits on 62 per cent of the world’s crude oil reserves and its oil-producing nations export 32 per cent of total global exports.

Twenty-one Arab countries are taking part in the Riyadh summit.

Meanwhile, in Amman, His Royal Highness Prince Feisal was sworn in as Regent in the presence of Cabinet members.