Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This is the first time Raisi has met the powerful Saudi crown prince.
Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, is in the Saudi capital Riyadh for a major summit on the Israel-Hamas war, with Arab leaders pushing 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 ties 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 all participants had gathered there on behalf of the Islamic world to “save the Palestinians.”
“We are gathered here today to discuss the focus of the Islamic world, which is the Palestinian cause, where we have 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 “battle between two axes” and the world must decide 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 for the Israeli offensive, saying Washington is “the main partner in these crimes.”
In his opening remarks, MBS said the Kingdom “categorically rejects” the war the Palestinians are facing.
“This summit is being held under unusual 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 the most influence over Israel.
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 wild-card player in the war and trigger a wider regional conflict.
Hezbollah has been increasingly allied with Hamas since the war in Syria ended. Hamas leaders have met with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah several times over the past year, and the Gaza-based group’s deepening ties with Iran are widely known.
Since Israel’s war with Hamas broke out, Hezbollah’s political stance has been unequivocally supportive of the Palestinian militants. It has sponsored demonstrations in support of Palestinian groups and has strongly condemned Israel’s major airstrikes on Gaza.
A significant number of Arab leaders are attending the emergency meeting on 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 Foreign Ministry.
The meeting is designed to discuss ways to stop the “Israeli aggression on Gaza,” an Arab League statement said ahead of the summit.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also arrived at the summit, a further sign of Syria’s rehabilitation among Arab states, following his participation in a regional meeting in May.