By Arab News
By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Saudi Arabia’s Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman opened the 4th Summit of the Arab and South American Countries (ASPA) on Tuesday by urging world leaders to help solve regional disputes, especially the Palestinian problem, and seek closer political and economic ties.
King Salman, while delivering the opening address at the ASPA Summit, said he appreciated joint efforts to fight the menace of terrorism regionally and globally.
In a brief but candid speech, the king spoke about progressively developing political and economic cooperation between the Arab world and the South American region.
He proposed setting up a “joint business council,” which would promote economic relations between the Arab League nations and the countries of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
King Salman recalled the “extraordinary relations” between the two blocs, saying that “this partnership has brought us onto one platform.” He called on the leaders to “bolster cooperation at all areas.” He also proposed an agreement to avoid double taxation to promote trade and investment. The inaugural session was attended by heads of state and high-ranking officials of all 22 Arab countries and 12 South American states, including Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that the ASPA was an excellent initiative. The realization of business opportunities demands a greater mutual understanding of the issues facing the two regions, he said.
The inaugural session was addressed by Uruguay Vice President Raul Sendic, whose country holds the UNASUR chair. In the capacity of the regional coordinator of the South American bloc, Mauro Vieira, Brazilian foreign minister, spoke during the opening ceremony. On behalf of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, secretary general, also delivered a speech.
Others who attended included Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam. Somalian President Hasan Sheikh Mahmoud, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai, and Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives Aqilah Saleh also attended the summit.
Sudanese President Omar Bashir, Fuad Masum of Iraq, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived early at the venue. Other guests included King Abdallah of Jordan, Mauritania President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Tunisian President Al-Habib Al-Said.
From South America, the leaders in attendance included Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, Colombian Minister of Foreign Relations Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar, Ecuador President Rafael Correa Delgado, Peruvian Prime Minister Pedro Cateriano, and Argentine Vice
President Amado Boudou.
A reliable source at the ASPA said that two documents to be issued at the end of the summit include a political one named the “Riyadh Declaration,” and the other on economic plans. The Riyadh Declaration is expected to address conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen, while the economic document would promote agreements and strengthen investments.
According to the Brazilian government, trade between South America and Arab countries grew by 183 percent over the past decade, from $13.7 billion in 2005 to $34.8 billion over the past year. This summit is the fourth meeting since 2005 between the two blocs. The summit, held every three years, was first hosted by Brazil in 2005, followed by meetings in Qatar and Peru.