Riyadh summit aimed at "clearing the air" among Arab states

A summit hosted by Saudi King Abdullah on Wednesday in Riyadh was aimed at "clearing the air" among the Arab states, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said.

The meeting brought together Abdullah, Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, his Egyptian counterpart Hosny Mubarak and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, dpa reported.

It was held to iron out relations among the Arab states ahead of Qatar's Arab summit at the end of the month.

"The results of this summit will be sent to all Arab leaders," al- Faisal said in a press statement.

"The leaders consider their meeting a new chapter in their relations, where their countries will cooperate to reach a common Arab policy in dealing with the main issues that face the Arab world, specifically the Palestinian cause," said the statement released after meeting.

Al-Assad's visit to the Sunni kingdom marks a breakthrough in Saudi-Syrian relations, after years of strained ties because of differences over the Palestinian cause and Shiite Iran.

Syria and Qatar back the Islamist Palestinian Hamas movement, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt are aligned with the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah group.

Relations were also strained after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who had close Saudi ties.

Damascus has denied accusations of involvement in the billionaire's slaying, which is now the subject of an international tribunal investigation based in The Hague.

After the summit, the spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, Solaiman Awad, said the meeting was held in "positive atmosphere" and that the summit was "successful".

"President Mubarak expressed his wish that such reconciliation would spread to all Arab states paving the way for the Doha summit and help the nations to face their regional and international challenges," Awad was quoted as saying by Egypt's MENA news agency.

"The Egyptian leader also said that such reconciliation should be reflected in an Arab common stance in front of the world and defend Arab issues, including the Palestinian cause," Awad added.

The summit was held as Egypt brokers Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo, which started last month aiming to unite all factions and forming a national unity government.

Despite being deeply angered by Israel's 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip that ended in January, Arab countries differed on how to react and over their stance from Hamas group, which took over the enclave in June 2007. 

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