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Algeria’s Tebboune tells Arab summit Palestine remains ‘our central cause’

Algeria’s president has called for Arab unity to face escalating “tensions and crises” as he opened the first Arab League summit since a string of normalisation deals with Israel divided the region.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune told the meeting’s inaugural session on Tuesday that “our central and primary cause remains the Palestinian cause”.

“The Palestinian question is the mother of all questions,” Tabboune said. He blasted Israel’s “aggression against Palestinians” and urged unity of Palestinian political factions as “the only way out of the impasse.”

The Algerian president also warned that “exceptional global conditions are creating polarisation… which is impacting our food security”, without directly mentioning Russia’s incursion on Ukraine.

“The regional and international context (is) marked by rising tensions and crises, particularly in the Arab world, which in its modern history hasn’t seen a period as difficult as the one it is currently undergoing,” he added.

The summit, the first since 2019, had been postponed multiple times due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the meantime, several members of the 22-member bloc — for decades a forum for strident declarations of support for the Palestinian cause — have normalised ties with Israel.

The United Arab Emirates went first in a historic US-mediated deal establishing full ties with Israel.

That sparked a similar accord with Bahrain, a provisional deal with Sudan and a re-launch of ties with Morocco, helping rekindle the kingdom’s decades-old rivalry with neighbouring Algeria.

READ MORE: Algeria hosts first Arab League summit since Abraham accords

2002 Arab initiative

Algiers remains a steadfast supporter of Palestine, even mediating a reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions in October.

The deal was seen as a public relations coup for Tebboune as he seeks more regional clout for Algeria on the back of its growing status as a gas exporter in a supply-starved global market.

Tebboune did not directly mention the normalisation deals. But he insisted that a 2002 Arab initiative proposing peace in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from land it occupied during the 1967 Six Day War was the only way to reach “a just and comprehensive peace”.

The two-day meeting coincides with elections in Israel that could return hawkish ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu to power.

Addressing leaders including United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, Tebboune called for a UN General Assembly session to give full membership to Palestine.

The Algiers summit is another opportunity for Tebboune to push his agenda forward, despite high-profile Arab leaders being absent.

“Algerian foreign policy has gone on the offensive at the regional, African and Arab levels,” said Geneva-based expert Hasni Abidi.

READ MORE: Palestine’s Fatah, Hamas sign ‘historic’ reconciliation deal in Algeria

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