Gaza differences at Arab economic summit

Arab leaders have failed to agree on a support mechanism for Gaza reconstruction following Israel's offensive, despite a pledge of support.

Gaza differences at Arab economic summit

Arab leaders have failed to agree on a support mechanism for Gaza reconstruction following Israel's offensive, despite a pledge of support.

Arab leaders will agree at a summit on Tuesday to launch a $2 billion reconstruction fund but differences persisted over finding a united stance on the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Israel's three-week assault that killed more than 1,300 people has underscored the divide between those allied to Egypt and Saudi Arabia on one side, and those allied to Syria and Qatar on the other.

The debate in Kuwait, which delayed the summit's final session, was over whether to include strongly worded resolutions recommended at a special meeting on Gaza in Qatar last week, Arab diplomats said.

"We held a closed-door session to discuss the final statement on Gaza ... We have not reached a conclusion because of time constraints and some positions," Hoshyar Zebari told Kuwait Television, without giving details.

"Under these circumstances, it is supposed that all should make concessions for the sake of Arab reconciliation ... Efforts are still being made to hammer out a united position," Zebari said.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad said: "Realistically speaking, there are differences among Arab brothers."

The Doha meeting called on Arab countries to suspend their ties with Israel and to call a 2002 Arab peace initiative dead.

However, Arab foreign ministers last week prepared a different set of resolutions for approval by leaders on Tuesday, including a pledge of "support" for the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.

The 2002 peace initiative offered Israel normal relations in return for full withdrawal from all Arab land and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Aid and energy

Leaders were expected to back a $2 billion fund to rebuild Gaza. Saudi Arabia has committed $1 billion to the fund.

A draft of the final declaration obtained by Reuters showed that leaders would focus on increased economic cooperation, with the emphasis on energy.

The draft calls on Arab states to work together to tackle the impact of the global financial crisis on the region and to take part in global efforts to restore financial stability. It urges financial institutions to facilitate credit.

Arab central bankers and finance ministers meeting ahead of the summit last week urged their governments to keep state spending high to shore up domestic economies amid a collapse in oil prices and recession in the industrialised world.

The slump in oil prices has slowed a phase of rapid regional growth, battered investor confidence and strained budgets.

Arab leaders will call for cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and the expansion of regional power grids and natural gas networks, according to the draft.

Governments across the Arab world have expressed interest in nuclear power to meet rapidly rising electricity demand. Some of the world's top oil exporters are looking at nuclear energy to avoid burning fuel at home and keep oil export cash rolling in.


Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2009, 15:45
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