JEDDAH — Arab foreign ministers have welcomed Syria’s formal return to their 22-member bloc after 12 years of isolation. Syrian delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, is attending the preparatory meeting of foreign ministers in Jeddah ahead of the 32nd Arab League Summit slated for Friday.

Saudi Arabia took over the rotating presidency of the Arab League summit as Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf handed over the presidency to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan. The foreign ministers started finalizing the agenda and preparing draft resolutions of the summit.

In his presidential address, Prince Faisal bin Farhan underscored the need for unity among Arab countries in order to overcome common challenges and difficulties as well as to confront major global challenges. The foreign minister welcomed the Arab delegations, especially the Syrian delegation.

He emphasized that the world is going through great challenges that warrant us to stand united to confront them. “Everyone must innovate new mechanisms to confront the challenges faced by our countries,” he said while underscoring the need for joint action by Arab countries for the advancement of their peoples.

The foreign ministers stressed the importance of a ceasefire in Sudan to ensure the safety of its citizens and called for the crisis to be treated as an internal matter. The summit comes at a time of major political developments, including the Sudan crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Syria’s readmission to the body, all of which were at the top of the agenda of the ministerial meeting preparatory for Friday’s summit.

This year’s summit differs from previous years as it is the first to be attended by Syria since the country’s membership was suspended in 2011. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will attend the summit. Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit welcomed the high-level Syrian delegation.

At the outset of the session, Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf called for resolving the Arab differences within the Arab House, stressing that the upcoming summit seeks to unite the Arab world in confronting the challenges in the region.

Attaf emphasized that Arab countries should focus on joint Arab action to confront the global challenges. He also stressed the need to pay attention to the changes taking place in the world, because they will change the balance of power. He supported Saudi Arabia’s efforts for the cessation of hostilities in Sudan and resolve the crisis. He also emphasized that the Libyan-Libyan dialogue alone will restore stability to Libya.

Attaf underlined the need to exert efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation and national unity. He also supported the aspirations of the Yemeni people to restore their security and stability. The minister hoped that Lebanon would witness an understanding among its people to solve its internal crisis.

In his speech, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the Israeli government is responsible for the deterioration of the situation in the Palestinian territories, warning that the situation there is approaching a phase of explosion. Aboul Gheit pointed out that there are positive indications from Iran and Turkey to stop their interference in the affairs of Arab countries. He stressed that the Jeddah summit is an opportunity to put an end to armaments in Sudan.

The ministerial preparatory meeting was preceded by several other meetings, the most important of which were the meeting of the Quartet Arab Ministerial Committee concerned with following up the developments of the Iranian file, and the meeting of the Arab Ministerial Committee concerned with following up Turkish interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries. There was also a meeting of the open-ended Arab Ministerial Committee to support the State of Palestine.

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