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Arab Summit 2017: Show of unity expected on Palestine question

Arab leaders gathered for an annual summit in Jordan Wednesday looking to overcome divisions on regional crises including the devastating wars in Syria and Yemen.

A show of unity was expected on the Israeli-Palestinian question, but on other issues analysts said any breakthrough was highly unlikely.

As the summit of the 22-member Arab League opened in Sweimeh on the Dead Sea coast, Jordan’s King Abdullah II suggested that failing to come together would leave the region open to outside influence.

“We need to take the initiative to find solutions to all the challenges we face in order to avoid foreign interference in our affairs,” he said.

Arab leaders have been unable to find common ground on how to end Syria’s conflict, which in six years has left more than 320,000 dead and forced millions from their homes.

“Arab unity is a very important element in order to allow this region to be stabilised and for… the Syrian refugees to find again a future that corresponds to their aspirations,” he said.

Talks are expected on a range of other issues including efforts against the Islamic State group, the war in Yemen, continued unrest in Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Against Trump embassy plan 

On the Palestinian question, the leaders are set to oppose plans by US President Donald Trump to move Washington’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and consider alternatives to a Palestinian state.

A draft summit statement, drawn up by the Palestinian delegation and obtained by AFP, says the league’s members “reaffirm their commitment to the two-state solution”.

It calls on “all countries to respect UN Security Council resolutions that reject Israel’s annexation of occupied east Jerusalem” and “not to move their embassies” from Tel Aviv to the Holy City.

Since taking office in January, Trump has indicated he is willing to break with decades of US policy by moving the embassy and being open to a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if both sides agree.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met late Tuesday on the sidelines of the summit with Trump adviser Jason Greenblatt, who said on Twitter that it was a “very positive meeting” with “discussion on how to make tangible progress on peace”.

Abbas is expected to visit the White House next month, after a visit by Sisi scheduled for April 3. Abdullah is also expected in Washington soon.

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