Saudi Arabia postpones Arab-African summit to convene emergency meetings on Gaza

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Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Saudi Arabia has postponed the fifth Arab-African summit that was scheduled for Friday and will, instead, host emergency Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Co-operation summits on Friday and Saturday to discuss Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said it had reached the decision on Tuesday night after consulting with the Secretariat of the League of Arab States and the African Union Commission to “ensure that political events in the region do not affect the Arab-African partnership”.

The Arab League summit will take place on Friday, involving most leaders of member states, while the OIC conference, to which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been invited to, will be held on Saturday, a source in the ministry said.

Speaking at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al Falih said the kingdom would convene an emergency Arab summit in Riyadh “in the next few days”.

“In the short term, the objective of bringing these three summits and other gatherings under the leadership of Saudi Arabia would be to drive towards peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Mr Al Falih said, before the decision was made to postpone the Arab-African summit.

Sources from the Saudi Foreign Ministry and the Arab League told The National that mid-level discussions between foreign ministers had been held to discuss short-term measures to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“Saudi efforts on the Palestinian cause have always centred on the Arab Peace Initiative and there is consensus among our neighbours on the long-term political solution for Palestine,” a Saudi source close to the government told The National.

“The summits this weekend will be focused on the heads of states meeting behind closed doors to show unity on the urgency to stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza and efforts to bring about a ceasefire.”

Mr Al Falih said talks aimed at establishing diplomatic ties with Israel would continue, despite the kingdom’s recent criticism of Israeli military actions in Gaza.

However, they will be “contingent on a pathway to a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question”, he said.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said his country’s troops were advancing towards the centre of Gaza city.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated that there would be no ceasefire until the roughly 240 hostages taken from Israel during the Hamas group’s attack on October 7 were freed.

A source confirmed to Axios on Wednesday that US President Joe Biden held talks with Mr Netanyahu on a possible three-day “humanitarian pause” to ensure the release of 10 to 15 captives held by Hamas in the coming days.

Under the proposal between the US, Israel and Qatar, Hamas will release the hostages and use the “pause” to verify the identities of all the hostages and deliver a complete list of names of the people it is holding.

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