OIC, AL members slam Israel, but differ on response

Published November 12, 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, presidents of Palestine, Iran, Turkiye and other leaders pose for a group photo before the start of an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, on Saturday.—AFP
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, presidents of Palestine, Iran, Turkiye and other leaders pose for a group photo before the start of an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, on Saturday.—AFP

• Summit rejects Tel Aviv’s claim it’s acting in self-defence, demands UNSC’s binding resolution against Jewish state
• Proposals about disruption in oil supply to Israel fail
• Iran sees Israeli army as ‘terrorist organisation’
• Islamabad urges unconditional, immediate ceasefire

RIYADH: Muslim leaders on Saturday condemned Israeli forces’ “barbaric” actions in Gaza but declined to approve punitive economic and political steps against the country over its ongoing atrocities in Gaza.

The outcome of a joint summit of the Arab League (AL) and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) highlighted regional divisions over how to respond to the Israeli attacks even as fears mount that it could draw in other countries.

The summit took place against a backdrop of wid­e­s­pread anger in the Middle East and beyond over Israel’s aerial and ground offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 11,000 people, mostly civilians and many of them children.

The final declaration of the summit rejected Israeli claims that it is acting in “self-defence” and demanded that the United Nations Security Council adopt “a decisive and binding resolution” to halt Israel’s aggression.

It also dismissed out of hand any future political resolution to the conflict that would keep Gaza separate from the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who before the conflict was considering establishing formal diplomatic ties with Israel, told the summit he “holds the occupation (Israeli) authorities responsible for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people”.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, on his first trip to Saudi Arabia since the two countries mended ties in March, said Muslim nations should designate the Israeli army a “terrorist organisation” for its conduct in Gaza.

Regional divisions

The Arab League and the OIC, a 57-member bloc that includes Iran, were originally meant to meet separately.

Arab diplomats told AFP the decision to merge the meetings came after Arab League delegations failed to reach an agreement on a final statement.

Some countries, including Algeria and Lebanon, proposed responding to the devastation in Gaza by threatening to disrupt oil supplies to Israel and its allies as well as severing the economic and diplomatic ties that some Arab League nations have with Israel, the diplomats said.

However, at least three countries — including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which normalised ties with Israel in 2020 — rejected the proposal, according to the diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In a statement issued from Gaza, Hamas called on summit participants to expel Israeli ambassadors, form a legal commission to try Israeli war criminals and create a reconstruction fund for the territory.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said a lack of concrete punitive measures against Israel would render the summit toothless.

“If we do not have real tools for pressure, then any step we take or speech we give will have no meaning,” said Mr Assad, who was welcomed back into the Arab fold this year after an extended rift over his country’s civil war.

He said no Middle Eastern country should engage in any “political process” with Israel, including developing economic relations, until a lasting ceasefire is reached.

Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “it is a shame that Western countries, which always talk about human rights and freedoms, remain silent in the face of the ongoing massacres in Palestine”.

Crimes against humanity

Caretaker Prime Minis­ter Anwaarul Haq Kakar, in his statement, strongly condemned the incessant and brutal Israeli aggression and the inhumane blockade of Gaza that has resulted in death, destruction and displacement.

He said the Israeli occupation forces were in clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, and their indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. He called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for its crimes.

PM Kakar underscored the urgency of bringing an end to Israel’s campaign of terror with an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, lifting of the siege of Gaza, and rapid and unhindered humanitarian and relief assistance for the people of Gaza.

He underlined that the root cause of the current situation was the perennial settler colonialism and denial of the right of self-determination to the Palestinian people.

He reaffirmed Pakis­tan’s solidarity and support for the Palestinian people and for their right to self-determination.

Iran president in Riyadh

Mr Raisi’s visit to Riyadh made him the first Iranian president to set foot in Saudi Arabia since Mahmoud Ahmadi­nejad attended an OIC meeting in the kingdom in 2012.

In addition to addressing the summit, he held a face-to-face meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi state media said on X, formerly Twitter.

Iran backs Hamas as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Huthi rebels, placing it at the centre of concerns the war could expand.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2023

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