SWEIMEH, Jordan — Arab leaders reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday at their annual meeting, a move seen as a unified message to President Trump ahead of visits by three Arab leaders to Washington next month.
In a communique, the Arab League called for a fresh series of peace talks and renewed an offer of “reconciliation” with the Jewish state, if Israel returns Arab lands it has occupied. That would pave the way for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The agreement comes weeks after Trump tossed a diplomatic wrench into the Middle East peace process by seemingly stepping back from a decades-long U.S. commitment to eventual Palestinian statehood.
By focusing on the Palestinian plight, Arab leaders are hoping to bring renewed attention to a conflict that has been overshadowed by the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and the wars that have followed in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. A central cause of the Arab world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also offered an opportunity for Arab governments to show unity at a time when they are deeply divided over how to solve the region’s multiple crises.
“There can be no peace nor stability in the region without a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause, the core issue of the Middle East, based on the two-state solution,” said the summit’s host, King Abdullah of Jordan.
While none of the Arab leaders specifically mentioned Trump in their addresses, it was clear they intended to inform the White House in coming days that they are willing to restart the peace process if the Trump administration wants to broker a wider Middle East peace.
Abdullah and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will “convey a unified message to the White House,” said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League’s secretary general.
Wednesday’s communique reaffirmed a 15-year-old Saudi-led peace plan, known as the Arab Peace Initiative, that calls for Israel to pull out of lands captured in 1967 in exchange for full relations with moderate Arab and Muslim countries. That would allow the creation of a Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Israel’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz, said that although the Palestinian issue cannot be ignored, it is important to address the region’s many other challenges, including the Islamic State, the increasing threat posed by Iran through its proxies, and the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.
“A positive regional climate change could lead in the future to peace,” Katz said.
His comments echoed recent suggestions by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that arriving at peace with the Palestinian first needs a regional initiative. But Abbas expressed concern at the summit that more negotiations could weaken the Palestinian position.
“The Israeli government has since 2009 worked on wrecking the two-state solution by accelerating the tempo of settlements and the confiscation of land,” said Abbas, who met with Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, this week.
In speech after speech, nearly all of 21 Arab leaders in attendance expressed support for an independent Palestinian state.
Trump’s campaign promise to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is widely opposed by Arabs. Many fear that such a move could ignite violence in the region. Abdullah, whose family has long held custodianship over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, warned that any move by Israel to alter the religious character of the city could have dire consequences and anger Muslims everywhere.
European leaders at the summit also expressed support for an independent Palestinian state. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said a two-state solution was the “only path to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis can realize their national aspirations and live in peace, security and dignity.”
Guterres also denounced the rise of “populist political leaders” in the West who “for shortsighted and cynical reasons distort Islam to spread anti-Muslim hatred, playing into the hands of terrorist and extremist groups.” He also spoke against the growing Western attitude against refugees, particularly Muslims.
“It breaks my heart to see developed countries closing their borders to refugees fleeing this region, and worse, sometimes invoking religion as a reason to keep them out,” he said.
The Arab leaders pledged to address the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen but did not offer specific plans on how they would move forward. All three conflicts have fractured Arab governments and deepened tensions among them.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not been invited to the summit since Syria was suspended from the Arab League during the 2011 populist revolts and the government crackdown that plunged the country into civil war. But Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir did attend and addressed the gathering, despite his indictment by the International Criminal Court. Human rights groups had urged Jordanian authorities to arrest Bashir, who is wanted on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
There were also indications that recent tensions between Egypt and Saudi Arabia were easing. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appeared together and met face to face. The two nations are divided over solutions to the Syrian conflict, as well as Egypt’s role in the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign in Yemen.
Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem and Heba Mahfouz in Cairo contributed to this report.