Saudi Arabia calls for emergency Gulf meeting on Gaza

Saudi king's initiative comes on top of push by Qatar to hold emergency summit Friday in Doha with the 22 Arab League members.

Saudi Arabia called for an emergency meeting of Gulf countries Wednesday to discuss the IDF operation in Gaza Strip, as Arab nations struggled to figure out a unified response to the crisis. King Abdullah called for the meeting Thursday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh "due to the escalation of the latest events resulting from the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people and the current circumstances in the Arab world," said a Foreign Ministry statement. The Saudi king's initiative came on top of a push by Qatar to hold an emergency Gaza summit Friday in its capital Doha with the 22 members of the Arab League. There was some confusion Wednesday over how many countries have agreed to attend the summit, as Egypt and Saudi Arabia put pressure on nations to stay away. It was unclear whether Qatar would get the quorum of 16 countries needed to hold the meeting. Arab countries have been struggling with how to address the crisis in Gaza, with some pushing for a strong response against Israel and others willing to put more pressure on Hamas. Egypt, which has been mediating a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas, fears Arab leaders will come under public pressure to side with the terror group if the high-profile summit in Doha is held. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have suggested instead that Arab leaders hold talks in Kuwait on Sunday on the sidelines of a planned economic summit. "If we go to the Doha summit, we will kill the Kuwait summit," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters. He said at least six Arab countries support Egypt and Saudi Arabia in favoring delaying the Doha summit. The pressure may be the reason why there was some confusion over attendance at the meeting. Hesham Youssef, an aide to Arab League chief Amr Moussa, said 15 countries have endorsed Qatar's invitation to hold the summit. He said 16 nations must agree in order to call the emergency meeting. However, after Youssef's statement, Moussa said only 14 countries have agreed to attend. In Doha, Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, said the number of Arab countries that have accepted the invitation "is almost complete." But only a few nations have publicly announced they are attending the conference, and the Arab League has refused to release a list of those who have agreed to come. Qatar said only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanon have so far officially accepted the invitation and confirmed attendance. Iraq said in a statement Wednesday that it would attend the Doha summit only if the organizers achieved a quorum of 16 nations not including Iraq.