Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak held talks with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah (pictured) in a bid to improve relations ahead of an Arab League summit in Qatar planned for March 29-30.
AFP - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah hosted a four-way meeting of Arab leaders on Wednesday aimed at closing ranks ahead of an Arab summit at the end of the month in Qatar.
The meeting between Abdullah, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-ahmad al-Sabah, was taking place at a Riyadh air base, the state news agency SPA said.
The encounter was designed to mark a thaw in frosty relations between Syria on the one hand and the Western-backed Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the other.
The Saudi kingdom, a regional powerhouse, called for the mini-summit in a bid to iron out Arab differences and present a united front at the Arab League summit set for March 29 and 30 in Qatar.
Assad's visit comes after years of strained ties over Damascus's close links with non-Arab Iran and its backing for radical Islamist movements such as the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Saudis were also angered by Syria's alleged complicity in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, a Saudi citizen and protege. Syria has steadfastly denied it was involved in the murder.
Riyadh wants to shore up support for a 2002 Saudi-inspired Arab peace initiative which offers Israel full normalisation of ties in return for an end to the occupation of Arab land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Arab states were deeply angered by Israel's three-week war on the Gaza Strip at the start of the year, but differences over how to respond and how much to support Gaza's Hamas rulers caused a deep rift within their ranks.
Date created : 2009-03-11