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Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya top Arab League summit agenda

Leaders at Mauritania meeting vow to "defeat terrorism" and back French bid to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail

Arab leaders speaking at the opening of the Arab League summit in the Mauritanian capital have pledged to "defeat terrorism" , with the ongoing threat of violence in the region dominating the agenda.

Chaired by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the two-day conference opened on Monday inside a large tent in Nouakchott, with the crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya the main focus of talks.

Sherif Ismail, Egypt's prime minister, was one of the first of the 21 leaders to speak and blamed foreign intervention in the region for the rise of groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and for the radicalisation of young people.

"Foreign intervention in Arab affairs is one of the major reasons for the current crisis, therefore we should work together to cement our domestic fronts in order to be able to stand up to these foreign interventions," Ismail said.

'Spark of hope'

For his part, Yemen's president called on hjis country's Houthi fighters to surrender their weapons and withdraw from territories they control as Arab coalition air raids continue to strike the armed group's positions.

Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled the Arabian Peninsula country, called the continuation of air strikes "a spark of hope".

"The only solution to the crisis is for the [Houthis] to abide by the recommendations of the Gulf Arab initiative and UN Security Council resolution 2216 which calls for them to withdraw from areas they seized and lay down the heavy arms they have," Hadi said.

About 9,000 people have been killed in Yemen since the intervention began last March, the majority of them civilians, according to UN figures.

The fighting has also driven 2.8 million people from their homes.

Arab leaders also voiced support for a new French initiative aimed at relaunching Israeli-Palestinian talks and holding an international conference for peace by year end.

"Putting an end to Israeli occupation and establishing an independent state of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital will always remain the prime focus and purpose of the Arab world," Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said.

"The stand taken by Israel continuing its illegal settlements requires us to find new and creative proposals to ... achieve peace. This requires us to take advantage of the recent momentum ... about the implementation of a two state solution."


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