Friday, January 16, 2009
21:27 Mecca time, 18:27 GMT      
News Middle East
Qatar, Mauritania cut Israel ties

Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, also called for Arab nations to cut 
ties with Israel [AFP]

Qatar and Mauritania have suspended economic and political ties with Israel in 
protest against the war in Gaza, Al Jazeera has learned.

The move announced on Friday followed calls by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian 
president, and Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, for all Arab nations 
to cut ties with Israel.

Addressing leaders at an emergency Arab summit in Doha, the Qatari capital, 
al-Assad declared that the Arab initiative for peace with Israel was now "dead".

He said Arab countries should cut "all direct and indirect" ties with Israel in 
protest against its offensive in Gaza.

His comments echoed those of Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, the 
Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, who also called on all Arab 
states to cut ties with Israel.

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries who have signed peace treaties 
with Israel and have Israeli embassies.

Summit demands

The Qatari-hosted Arab summit concluded Friday with participants agreeing to 
present a Kuwaiti-hosted summit - to be held on Sunday - with a list of 
measures to end the conflict in Gaza.


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Those measures include demanding that Israel stops its offensive in the Strip, 
is held responsible for "crimes" committed in Gaza and immediately re-opens all 
border crossings.

The summit also agreed that all Arab countries should form a "sea-bridge" that 
would enable aid supplies to reach Gaza.

Speaking from Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said 
Israel should be barred from the United Nations while it continues to ignore UN 
demands to end the fighting in Gaza.

"How is such a country, which totally ignores and does not implement 
resolutions of the UN Security Council, allowed to enter through the gates of 
the UN?" he said.

Erdogan's comments came hours ahead of Friday's official visit to Turkey by Ban 
Ki-moon, the UN secretary general.

The Turkish leader also added his voice to widespread condemnation of Israel's 
bombing of a UN compound in Gaza on Thursday.

"The UN building in Gaza was hit while the UN secretary general was in 
Israel... this is an open challenge to the world, teasing the world," he said.

Diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire have intensified over recent days with 
emergency meetings being held in Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait and Egypt.

Arab divisions

However, Friday's emergency summit in Doha has highlighted divisions within the 
Arab world, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia declining to attend, preferring instead 
to send delegates to a separate meeting of foreign ministers in Kuwait.

The Palestinian political factions Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front 
for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) are also at the Doha summit.

Hashem Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Doha, said the delegates in 
Qatar recognise the legitimacy of the Gazan factions, whereas Egypt, Saudi 
Arabia and Western nations have sidelined them from ceasefire talks.

"You have two camps: The so-called moderate Arab countries, Saudi Arabia, 
Egypt, Jordan, some Gulf monarchies like the UAE, and those who are trying to 
say that we totally disagree with the US attempt to implement a new Middle 

Qatar summit: Key points

The following demands will be taken to Sunday's Kuwait summit for pan-Arab 


- Strong condemnation of Israel

- Israel withdraws from Gaza

- Legal liability for Gaza "crimes"

- Re-opening of crossings

- "Sea-bridge" to supply Gaza

- Assist Palestinian reconciliation

- Establish Gaza rebuilding fund
Ahelbarra said the "moderate camp" is uncomfortable with Hamas's ties with Iran 
and suspects that the Iranian leadership is using some Arab countries to 
further its influence in the region.

He said that the latter group believes it has the duty to convey the anti-war 
feeling of the Arab street and condemn Israel's actions.

Talks are continuing in Cairo over an Egypt-sponsored truce, with Amos Gilad, 
the Israeli chief negotiator, telling Egyptian officials Israel wants an 
open-ended ceasefire.

Israel is demanding that rocket fire from Gaza ceases and that an international 
force is established to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza.

Hamas want Israeli troops to be withdrawn from the Gaza Strip immediately and 
for all border crossings into the territory to be permanently re-opened.

While Israel says it reserves the right to use military action if under threat, 
its emergency security cabinet is expected to vote on Saturday in favour of a 
unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, according to news agency AFP.

By Friday morning, 1,155 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,200 
injured since Israel launched its offensive on December 27. One third of the 
dead are children.
 Source:     Al Jazeera and agencies

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