Arab foreign ministers met in Kuwait while Arab and Muslim leaders gathered in Qatar on Friday to discuss the three-week-old Israeli offensive in Gaza that has highlighted the rifts in the Arab world.
Qatar had proposed hosting an emergency Arab summit on Gaza but met with resistance from regional heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who said they preferred to discuss the situation as part of the previously scheduled economic summit in Kuwait on Monday. The Arab League said Doha had failed to secure the quorum of 15 required for a formal Arab Summit, but Qatar has gone ahead with a broad consultative meeting that has attracted Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, the Iranian and Syrian presidents and Turkish officials.
Gulf leaders held an emergency meeting on Gaza late on Thursday, in an apparent bid to pre-empt Qatar's diplomatic efforts. According to Reuters, the Gulf leaders promised at their meeting in Riyadh that the Arab summit in Kuwait would discuss the Gaza offensive and noted that president-elect Barack Obama may change U.S. policy.
"The Arab situation has been very chaotic and this is regrettable," Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters in Kuwait, where 3,000 people demonstrated in support of the Palestinian people.
At the morning session, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called for more support for Egyptian efforts to mediate a ceasefire and increased diplomatic pressure on Israel to ensure the implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the violence in Gaza.
The foreign ministers' meeting had been scheduled by Kuwait even before Israel's Gaza offensive, but Qatar felt the severity of the situation required an earlier meeting at leaders' level.
Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, whose country has low-level ties with Israel and ties to Hamas, said the Doha summit would review diplomatic and economic ties to Israel. Sheikh Hamad also pledged $250 million to rebuild Gaza and said the talks would raise the possibility of suspending an Arab peace initiative, though any move on that front needs a quorum.