At a rare summit held in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, regional leaders gathered to condemn Israel for its human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip. The summit, which was hosted by Saudi Arabia and chaired by King Salman, included leaders from the Middle East, including Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a delegate to the talks.
The gathering comes amid a cooling of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, after Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, imposed a diplomatic and economic blockade of Qatar in 2017. Saudi Arabia also recently opened its land border with Qatar, allowing goods and people to cross.
The summit statement condemned “Israeli practices and policies in the Palestinian territories”, noting that they are a “flagrant violation of human rights in violation of international law and human laws”. It also reiterated the importance of achieving a just solution to the Palestinian cause.
This statement marks the first time that Riyadh and Tehran have expressed agreement on the issue of the Palestinians, in what appears to be a thaw in regional tensions. Rouhani’s visit to Mecca was the first official visit by an Iranian leader since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran has traditionally been an ally of the Palestinians, while Saudi Arabia had come to favor a more conciliatory approach towards Israel.