Above Photo: SPA via AP.
The historic Arab League summit saw Syria official’s return after years of isolation.
And an unexpected speech from the Ukrainian president chastising Arab leaders for their neutrality
At the conclusion of the 32nd annual Arab League summit hosted by Saudi Arabia on 19 May, the regional bloc issued a joint declaration calling for an end to foreign interference in the region and reaffirming their support for Palestinian liberation.
“We call for stopping foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries and categorically reject all support for the formation of armed groups and militias outside the scope of state institutions,” the joint statement reads.
It also stressed that the Israeli occupation of Palestine remains “one of the key factors of stability in the region” and condemns “in the strongest terms the practices and violations targeting Palestinians in their lives, property and existence” while calling for the formation of a sovereign Palestinian state “on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
The statement goes on to hail the decision made by regional leaders to welcome Syria back into the Arab League.
“We stress the importance of continuing to intensify pan-Arab efforts aimed at helping Syria overcome its crisis in line with the joint Arab efforts and brotherly relations that connect all Arab peoples,” the statement reads.
During his closing remarks at the end of Friday’s summit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) stressed that the region must not turn into a conflict zone and reassured attendants that “world peace” was near.
He also hoped Syria’s “return to the Arab League leads to the end of its crisis.”
Earlier in the day, MbS warmly welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the summit’s venue, officially marking the end of Syria’s isolation within West Asia after 12 years of a US-backed war.
“I would like to loudly welcome Syria back to its seat among its brothers,” Algerian Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane said in the opening speech of the summit.
“Today we are facing an opportunity to change the international situation that appears in the form of a unipolar world, a result of the dominance of the west, who lack all ethics and principles,” the Syrian president said during his speech.
“We stand together against the movement of darkness,” Assad added, referring to extremist armed groups that dominate the Syrian opposition, many of which have had the support of Arab League member states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
An unexpected guest at Friday’s summit was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who arrived at the last minute in a French government jet to address those present in what regional observers called “an entertainment break.”
During his speech, the Ukrainian leader invoked the Arab world’s history of invasion and occupation by claiming his country “will never submit to any foreigners or colonizers.”
“Unfortunately, there are some in the world and here among you who turn a blind eye to those [prisoner of war] cages and illegal annexations,” Zelensky, an ally of the Israeli government, told the gathering of Arab leaders.
“I’m here so that everyone can take an honest look, no matter how hard the Russians try to influence, there must still be independence,” he added before departing for Japan to plead with G7 leaders for further military and financial assistance.
After meeting with Zelensky earlier on Friday, MbS spoke about “the kingdom’s readiness to continue mediating efforts between Russia and Ukraine,” adding he would “support all international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis politically in a way that contributes to achieving security.”
According to reports in Russian media, Zelensky was set to meet with a delegation from Moscow during his brief stay in Jeddah.