Saudi king slams Iran 'interference' as Arab summit opens

Saudi king slams Iran 'interference' as Arab summit opens
2 min read
15 April, 2018
Opening the Arab League summit on Sunday, there was notably little mention by the Saudi king of the Western strikes launched against the Assad regime.
King Salman announced $150 million donation for East Jerusalem [AFP]

Saudi Arabia's King Salman opened the 29th annual Arab League summit on Sunday by criticising Iran's "blatant inteference" in regional affairs.

Arab leaders met in Saudi Arabia as world powers face off over Syria amid rising tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.

In his opening speech, Salman notably made no mention of the Western strikes launched against the Assad regime a day ago.

Saudi Arabia pushed instead for a tough, unified stance against its regional arch-foe Iran.

"We renew our strong condemnation of Iran's terrorist acts in the Arab region and reject its blatant interference in the affairs of Arab countries," the king said.

Despite being a close ally to the US, with Saudi Arabia's defacto leader Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman having recently returned from a three-week "charm offensive" tour of the States, King Salman also criticised President Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem," the king said in a speech in Dhahran in eastern Saudi Arabia, where the 22-member Arab League are gathered.

"East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories," he added.

King Salman also announced a $150 million donation for East Jerusalem "to support the administration of Jerusalem's Islamic property".

The move comes weeks after Prince Mohammad appeared to put the rival land claims of Palestinians and Israel on an equal footing, saying Israel had a "right" to its land, giving the impression of a rapprochement between Tel Aviv and Riyadh.

King Salman scrambled to counter his son's remarks, saying "the kingdom's steadfast position toward the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital," after Palestinians slammed the Crown Prince's comments.

Sources at the time of Trump's announcement also claimed that Riyadh had ordered media outlets not to focus "too much attention" on Washington's controversial decision.

Diplomatic standoff

The summit also comes with Saudi Arabia and Qatar locked in almost a year-long diplomatic standoff, with Riyadh accusing Doha of supporting Islamist extremists and being too close to Iran - charges Doha categorically denies.

Qatar Emir was not at the summit, with Doha's representative to the Arab League, Saif bin Muqaddam al-Buainain sent to Dhahran instead, its state news agency said.

Among the leaders in attendance was Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, who walked the red carpet and was greeted by King Salman. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of genocide and two counts of war crimes.