Latin, Arab lead­ers hold sum­mit to strengthen ties

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

RIYADH: Arab and South Amer­i­can lead­ers con­verged on Saudi Ara­bia yes­ter­day for a sum­mit aim­ing to strengthen ties be­tween the ge­o­graph­i­cally dis­tant but eco­nom­i­cally pow­er­ful re­gions. United Na­tions chief Ban Ki-moon is ex­pected to at­tend the open­ing in Riyadh of the Fourth Sum­mit of South Amer­i­can-Arab Coun­tries, set to be­gin at 1600 GMT. State tele­vi­sion showed the ar­rival of Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro of Venezuela, whose coun­try be­longs to the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Petroleum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries along with Saudi Ara­bia, the world’s big­gest oil ex­porter.

Pres­i­dent Rafael Cor­rea of Ecuador, OPEC’s small­est mem­ber, also ar­rived. It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether other Latin Amer­i­can heads of state would be present. Arab pres­i­dents who ar­rived in­cluded Omar alBashir of Su­dan, Ab­del Fat­tah El-Sisi of Egypt and Fuad Ma­sum of Iraq, as well as Pales­tinian leader Mah­mud Ab­bas, state me­dia said.

Other lead­ers in­clude Gulf rulers and King Ab­dul­lah II of Jor­dan. Ahead of the two-day meet­ing, Su­danese For­eign Min­is­ter Ibrahim Ghan­dour said win­dows of co­op­er­a­tion have long ex­isted “but haven’t been open enough to take ad­van­tage of the ca­pa­bil­i­ties” of both re­gions. For ex­am­ple, Su­dan has land and wa­ter “that could en­able it to be­come the Arab and South Amer­i­can food bas­ket”. The sum­mit be­tween the 22 Arab League mem­bers and 12 na­tions from South Amer­ica was first held in 2005. The gath­er­ings were an ini­tia­tive of then Brazil­ian pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva, whose coun­try hosted the first sum­mit.

‘Mov­ing for­ward’

Ahead of the sum­mit, Arab League Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Na­bil al-Arabi told Kuwait’s KUNA news agency that “trade be­tween both re­gions has amounted to $30 bil­lion af­ter it was no more than $6 bil­lion in 2005.” Peru, which hosted the third meet­ing in 2012, last month be­came one of 12 Pa­cific rim coun­tries to seal the world’s largest free trade area, known as the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship. Chile is the only other South Amer­i­can na­tion in­cluded in that deal. Saudi colum­nist Ab­du­la­teef Al-Mul­him, writ­ing in Mon­day’s Arab News, said that to­gether, the Arab and South Amer­i­can re­gions can help bring pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity to the world. “The whole of the con­ti­nent is mov­ing for­ward with many vis­i­ble and modern re­forms to their po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, so­cial and ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems,” he wrote of South Amer­ica.

Saudi For­eign Min­is­ter Adel Al-Jubeir spoke of a “con­ver­gence of po­si­tions” be­tween coun­tries of the two re­gions on many is­sues and com­mended the Latin Amer­i­can na­tions’ “pos­i­tive stance” to­wards the Pales­tinian ques­tion. Jubeir told a pre-sum­mit meet­ing that the pre­vi­ous three sum­mits tried to de­velop trade, in­vest­ment and trans­port links. There re­main “promis­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for col­lab­o­ra­tion”, he said, ac­cord­ing to a writ­ten text of his Mon­day speech. Two South Amer­i­can na­tions, Ar­gentina and Brazil, be­long to the Group of 20 world’s largest economies, as does Saudi Ara­bia. The king­dom and its Gulf neigh­bors pump much of the world’s oil, but Brazil and Venezuela are also ma­jor pro­duc­ers.

There are also cul­tural ties, as Chile hosts about 350,000 Pales­tinian im­mi­grants and their de­scen­dants who have set­tled there over the past cen­tury. Re­cent im­mi­gra­tion has taken more than 2,000 Syr­ian refugees flee­ing the war in their home­land to Brazil since 2011. The fig­ure is far more than for any other Latin Amer­i­can state, although some pledged open doors and Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Maduro said 20,000 were wel­come in his coun­try. How­ever, Maduro is a staunch ally of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad, who is fac­ing rebel forces sup­ported by Saudi Ara­bia and other Arab states.

RIYADH: Saudi of­fi­cials stand in front of the flags of coun­tries be­ing hosted by Saudi Ara­bia to at­tend the 4th sum­mit of Arab States and South Amer­i­can coun­tries, dur­ing the wel­com­ing cer­e­mony held at King Khalid In­ter­na­tional air­port in Riyadh yes­ter­day. — AFP

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