Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi Arabia hosted the leaders of Egypt and Syria on Wednesday in a mini-summit designed to improve relations between the countries.
Riyadh hoped the one-day session would improve frayed relations with Syria ahead of an Arab summit in Qatar later this month.
Ahead of the meeting, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak cast doubt on whether the leaders could come to any agreement. Egypt has repeatedly accused Iran, which along with Syria backs the militant Palestinian group Hamas, of trying to thwart Cairo’s mediation efforts between rival Palestinian factions.
After the session, Saudi Arabia’s official SPA news agency said participants agreed it “was a start of a new phase in relations in which the four nations will endeavor to serve Arab interests through cooperation” and strive for a “unified approach to Arab policies.”
The statement said the meeting reflected the four leaders’ efforts to “clear the air” and follow King Abdullah’s call to “leave past differences behind.”
Following the summit Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal told reporters that “Efforts were exerted and still being exerted to settle all differences which overwhelmed the inter-Arab relations, aiming at purifying them, God willing.”
There has been tension between Saudi Arabia and Syria over Syria’s ties to Iran, its support for militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and allegations over Syrian links to the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Syria differed with Saudi Arabia and Egypt over how to deal with Hamas during Israel’s Gaza offensive. Egypt is working to resolve differences between the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah.
Secretary General of Arab League Amr Moussa described the Arab Mini-Summit in Riyadh as an important step on the road to addressing Arab divisions and reforming the Arab position.
The mini-summit was a precursor for an Arab League summit scheduled for March 29-30 in Doha, Qatar.