DHAHRAN: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman yesterday opened an Arab League summit by criticising US President Donald Trump’s decision to transfer the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, reports AFP.
“We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem,” the king said in a speech in Dhahran in eastern Saudi Arabia.
“East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories,” he added.
The king also slammed Iran’s “blatant interference” in regional affairs as Arab leaders met in the kingdom for an annual gathering.
Opening the 29th Arab League summit, the king also criticised the US decision to transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and described “terrorism” as the biggest challenge facing Arab leaders.
Seventeen leaders from across the Arab world—minus Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—gathered in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran for the summit, which this year comes as world powers face off over Syria and tensions rise between Riyadh and Tehran.
The meeting opened only 24 hours after a barrage of strikes launched by the United States, Britain and France hit targets they said were linked to chemical weapons development in Syria, which was suspended from the league seven years ago.
But King Salman avoided any mention of Syria in his address, as a seat marked “Syrian Arab Republic” sat empty in the hall.
Instead the king focused on rivalries with long-time foe Iran—only 160 kilometres (100 miles) across the Gulf from Dharan.
“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.
And despite being a stalwart ally of the United States, the ruler also criticised US President Donald Trump controversial decision to transfer America’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem,” Salman said. “East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories.”
Arab ministers at a preliminary meeting in Riyadh on Thursday focused heavily on blocking the move, unanimously condemning Trump’s decision.
King Salman on Sunday announced a $150 million donation for the maintenance of Islamic heritage in East Jerusalem.
Saudi Arabia is pushing for a tough, unified stance against its regional arch-rival Iran at the annual gathering of the 22-member Arab League.
The two regional titans back opposing sides in a range of hotspots across the Middle East, including Lebanon and Syria and in Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour Yemen.
Iran is backing Shiite Huthi rebels that Riyadh opposes in Yemen and on Sunday Salman praised “the UN Security Council’s statement denouncing the Iranian-made ballistic missile fire on Saudi cities.”
Last month the Security Council issued a statement condemning Huthi missile attacks on Saudi, but did not name Iran.
In February, Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have expressed concern over Iran’s failure to block supplies of missiles to Yemen’s Huthi rebels.