Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday a $150 million donation to the maintenance of Islamic heritage, namely the religious administration that oversees Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque— one of Islam’s holiest sites at the start of an Arab summit.
The Kingdom announced another $50 million for programs run by the UN relief agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) after the US slashed its aid.
King Abdullah II of Jordan opened the 29th Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran, stressing the need for a two-state solution and condemning the US’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman also condemned the move and reiterated the Kingdom’s rejection of the US decision, while emphasizing the need to have East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
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 recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel which Arab states condemned.
“We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem,” Salman said. “East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories.”
The king said he had named this year’s meeting “the Jerusalem summit so that the entire world knows Palestine and its people remain at the heart of Arab concerns”.
However, the strongest criticism of the Trump administration came from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“The decisions have made the United States a party to the conflict and not a neutral mediator,” Abbas said at the summit.
Saudi King Salman told leaders from across the 22-member Arab League that Iran was to blame for instability and meddling in the region. He said Yemeni rebel Houthis, backed by Iran, had fired 116 missiles at the kingdom since Saudi Arabia went to war in Yemen three years ago to try and roll back Houthi gains there.“We renew our strong condemnation of terrorist acts carried out by Iran in the Arab region, and we reject its blatant interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries,” King Salman said in the eastern Saudi Arabian city, without giving specifics.
He called on the international community to take a strong stance against Iran’s aggression in the region, as well as the militias that are cutting off aid to war-torn Yemen.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said Assad’s government and “international players trying to achieve their own strategic political goals” bear responsibility for the crisis there.
“Regional interference in Arab affairs has reached an unprecedented degree. And first of these is the Iranian interference, the aim of which is not for the well-being of the Arabs or their interests,” he said.
Aboul Gheit added that major threats facing Arabs are all equally important and dangerous.
“Current challenges call for dialogue on priorities of Arab national security,” Aboul Gheit said.
He also said that the Syrian regime bears a great responsibility in the “collapse of its homeland and loss of dignity.”
Prior to the opening of the summit, King Salman received Arab leaders and heads of delegations participating in the 29th Arab League Summit at the King Abdulaziz International Cultural Center in Dhahran.