Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the Arab League has announced that the kingdom will host the next Arab summit on March 28 and 29 in an attempt to heal regional divisions.
Ahmed al-Qatan made the announcement Tuesday after a meeting with Arab League chief Amr Mussa, adding that foreign ministers would hold a preparatory meeting on March 26 in the Saudi capital.
Until today, Saudi Arabia refused to hold the next annual summit following a 2006 meeting in Khartoum. Asked about the change in position, Qatan told reporters that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia "understands well that the region is passing through a critical and delicate period".
The king "hopes to unify the ranks" because the "Arab world is witnessing many problems in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Somalia", the permanent representative said, according to AFP. "If these issues are not addressed, the situation will get worse and King Abdullah believes that healing the rifts is the prime incentive to hold the Arab summit in Riyadh," he added.
Saudi Arabia is to send out invitations for the summit to the leaders of the Arab world, including Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, the ambassador said. In 2004, Saudi and U.S. authorities said they were investigating an alleged plot by the Libyan leader to assassinate the ruler of Saudi Arabia, then Crown Prince Abdullah. Libya said the allegations were false, but this created a deep political crisis between these two Arab countries.