Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi s pictured ahead of the 29th Arab Summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia April 15, 2018. REUTERS
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Sunday that Arab countries are facing unprecedented threats, while criticising regional states that aim to increase their influence in Arab countries.
Speaking at the Arab Summit held in Saudi Arabia, El-Sisi said that Arab countries are facing the "most serious crisis since their independence" from occupation, citing attempts to interfere in Arab countries as well as setbacks in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"There are regional states that are not respecting the principles of neighbourliness and are working hard to establish spheres of influence within the Arab states," El-Sisi told leaders of countries in the 22-member Arab League.
"The army of one of the regional countries is present on the land of two Arab countries, in a state of explicit occupation," he said during a speech broadcast live on TV, without elaborating further.
El-Sisi added that "another regional party" exploited instability in the region in recent years to "built up areas of influence in more than one Arab country."
On Palestine, El-Sisi warned that non-activated international decisions on the conflict with Israel as well as division between Palestinian factions threaten Palestinians' longstanding hope for a state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Saudi Arabia currently holds the rotating chair of the Arab summit. King Salman has said that the ongoing Arab summit would be named the ‘Jerusalem Summit.’
El-Sisi said the "Arab right to Palestine is a fixed and legitimate right that cannot be rewritten or appropriated," referring to an Egyptian-drafted UN General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to reverse its December decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The UN resolution was backed by a majority of UN-member countries in December.
El-Sisi also called for a comprehensive strategy to preserve national security in Arab countries to protect against any attack or foreign interference.
El-Sisi also referred to a ballistic missile launched across the Yemeni border in Saudi Arabia by the Houthi militia, which targeted Riyadh and was intercepted by Saudi air defences last week.
"Egypt will not accept Yemeni elements bombing Saudi territory with ballistic missiles, as this constitutes a threat to Arab national security," he told the gathering.
The Egyptian president renewed calls for concerted efforts to fight terrorism and extremism in the region, saying that terrorists are only the "first link of a criminal chain" that includes "those who finance them, provide them with a safe haven, or use them to establish areas of influence and interference in the internal affairs of our Arab countries."
"I still hope that some of those who insist on standing on the wrong side of history will return to the right path and completely stop sponsoring and supporting terrorism," he said.
In June 2017, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar, saying that Doha has been supporting terrorist groups and meddling in their internal affairs. Qatar has denied the accusations.
The dispute with Qatar marks the worst diplomatic rift between Arab states in decades.
The four boycotting countries stressed ahead of the summit that the fulfilling of their demands – which include Doha ending its support for the Muslim Brotherhood group, shutting down the Doha-based Al-Jazeera media company and downgrading its relationship with Iran – were “a necessary basis” for the crisis to be resolved.
While Qatar is taking part in the summit, it did not send a senior official as its representative. The Qatari delegation to the summit is headed by Doha's permanent representative to the Arab League Saif bin Muqaddam Al-Buainain. Most of the countries in the summit are represented by heads of state or government.
El-Sisi also expressed concern over the "current military escalation in Syria," one day after the United States, Britain and France launched strikes in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack. The Syrian government denies using or possessing chemical weapons, and said that the strikes were an act of aggression.
El-Sisi also said that Egypt is committed to helping the Libyan national army regain its position and combat terrorism in Libya, as well as restoring stability and achieving political solution in Yemen.