Qatar emir calls for $1 billion Jerusalem fund at Arab summit 27Mar13 March 27, 2013

Ma’an News Agency    -    26 March 2013

209963_345x230BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani called for a $1 billion fund for Palestinians in Jerusalem during the opening session of the Arab Summit on Tuesday, which was dominated by events in Syria.

The Qatari emir made the proposal during his opening speech and offered to contribute $250 million to the fund, without providing further details.

He also suggested an Arab summit in Cairo to implement Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in an interview with Al-Jazeera that he welcomed the reconciliation proposal by the emir, while Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh issued a statement also welcoming the initiative.

Taking Syria’s seat at an Arab summit for the first time, opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib said he had asked US Secretary of State John Kerry for US forces to help defend rebel-controlled northern parts of Syria with Patriot surface-to-air missiles.

He said the United States should play a bigger role in helping end the two-year-old conflict in Syria, blaming Assad’s government for what he called its refusal to solve the crisis.

“I have asked Mr Kerry to extend the umbrella of the Patriot missiles to cover the Syrian north and he promised to study the subject,” Alkhatib said, referring to NATO Patriot missile batteries sent to Turkey last year to protect Turkish airspace.

“We are still waiting for a decision from NATO to protect people’s lives, not to fight but to protect lives,” he said.

The Sunni Muslim cleric took over Syria’s vacant chair at the Arab League summit in Doha despite announcing on Sunday that he would step down as leader of the Syrian National Coalition.

The emir of Qatar, a strong supporter of the struggle to topple Assad, asked his fellow-Arab leaders to invite the coalition delegation to represent Syria formally at the summit, despite the internal divisions plaguing the opposition.

The Arab League suspended Syria in November 2011 in protest at its use of violence against civilians to quell dissent.

In his opening speech, Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani urged the UN Security Council to stop the “oppression and repression of the people” in Syria, halt the bloodshed and “present those responsible for these crimes against their people to international justice”.

Apart from Syria, the Arab summit will also discuss stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and long-standing plans to restructure the Arab League.

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