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Source: CNN

Nov 11, 2023

Iran leader visits Saudi Arabia for first time in years for summit on Israel-Hamas war

By Sophie Tanno, Adam Pourahmadi, Caroline Faraj, Matog Zalah and Zeena Saifi, CNN

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is in the Saudi capital Riyadh for a major summit on the Israel-Hamas war, where Arab leaders pressed for an end to the conflict.

It marks the first trip by an Iranian leader to Saudi Arabia in 11 years after the two countries restored diplomatic relations in March.

He shook hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the heir to the Saudi throne and the country’s de facto ruler.

Speaking at the summit, Raisi said that all attendees had gathered there on behalf of the Islamic world to “save the Palestinians.”

“We have gathered here today to discuss the focus of the Islamic world, which is the Palestinian cause, where we’ve witnessed the worst crimes in history…Today is a historic day in the heroic defense and support of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he added.

Raisi said the story of Gaza is a “struggle between two axes,” and the world must determine which side it is on, the “side of nobility or the side that destroys human generations.”

The Iranian President criticized the United States for its support of the Israeli offensive, saying Washington is “the main partner in these crimes.”

In his opening remarks, MBS said the Kingdom “categorically rejects” the war to which Palestinians are being subjected.

“This summit is being held under exceptional and painful circumstances,” he said.

“We categorically reject this brutal war that our brothers and sisters are being subjected to in Palestine… we renew our demand for an immediate cessation of military operations.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the US “bears responsibility for the absence of a political solution” as it has most influence on Israel.

Syria’s leader also attends

Raisi’s attendance at the summit is significant amid speculation that Hezbollah – the Iran-backed Islamist movement with one of the most powerful paramilitary forces in the Middle East – could become a wildcard player in the war and spark a wider regional conflict.

Hezbollah has been increasingly allied with Hamas since the Syrian war wound down. Hamas’ leaders have met with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah several times over the last year, and the Gaza-based group’s deepening connections with Iran are widely-known.

Since Israel’s war with Hamas broke out, Hezbollah’s political stance has unequivocally supported the Palestinian militants. It has sponsored rallies in support of Palestinian groups and has roundly condemned Israel’s large-scale airstrikes on Gaza.

A significant number of Arab leaders are attending the emergency gathering Saturday, titled the Joint Arab Islamic Extraordinary Summit.

The summit is being hosted by Saudi Arabia in response to the “unprecedented circumstances in Gaza,” according to a statement released by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The meeting is designed to discuss ways to stop the “Israeli aggression on Gaza,” a statement from the Arab League said ahead of the summit.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also arrived for the summit, a further sign of Syria’s rehabilitation among Arab states, following his participation at a regional meeting in May.

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