Arab-S America summit to slam Israel

South American and Arab leaders gathering for a summit in Brasilia, Brazil, are expected to adopt a declaration condemning Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.

    The summit aims to strengthen South America-Arab ties

    According to a draft of the document approved by ministers on Monday, the first Summit of South American-Arab Countries will demand that Israel disbands settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, and withdraw to its borders before the 1967 Middle East war.

    The draft lashes out at US economic sanctions against Syria and denounces terrorism, but asserts the right of people "to resist foreign occupation in accordance with the principles of international legality and in compliance with international humanitarian law".

    See our Special Report on the Brasilia summit

    In the two-day summit starting on Tuesday, leaders and top government officials from 34 South American, Arab and North African countries will also support sweeping political and economic efforts to tighten links between the regions, the draft says.

    "The document is a very good one, and deals with all the issues that are important to the two sides," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "This has been a long time coming."

    Boosting ties

    The summit, hosted by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is a move to promote South-South cooperation among developing countries, and is aimed at countering the dominance of the United States in the global political arena.

    Brazilian President Lula da Silva
    is hosting the summit

    Officials on Monday said the leaders will also sign an agreement between oil-rich Arab countries and a key South American economic bloc, leading to negotiations for a free trade area linking the two regions.

    The trade zone would eventually link the six Arabic member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council with South America's Mercosur bloc, said GCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah. Mercosur's fully-fledged members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The GCC's members are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.

    Speaking to Arab and South American business executives and government officials ahead of the summit, al-Attiyah said the two regions were a natural fit for each other because millions of people of Arabic descent lived in South America.

    Bright prospects

    Luiz Furlan, Brazil's minister of industry and development, acknowledged that trade was paltry now between the two regions, but said there were strong indications it would grow rapidly.

    Brazil, South America's largest economy, exports just $4 billion annually to Arabic countries and imports $4.1 billion mostly in petroleum.

    But Brazil's exports have risen 50% over the past several years, and overall two-way trade of $8.1 billion could nearly double to $15 billion within three years, Furlan said.

    "Today we are beginning a new stage in the trajectory in the relations of South America and the Arab world," Furlan said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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