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King returns home from Riyadh

By JT - Jan 22,2013 - Last updated at Jan 22,2013

AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah returned home from Riyadh on Tuesday after participating in the third Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, a Royal Court statement said.

At the conclusion of the summit, Arab leaders pledged to remove obstacles to finalising a free trade zone this year and agreed to facilitate capital flows, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We stress our determination to complete all the prerequisites of [forming] the free trade area before the end of this year,” Arab League chief Nabil El Araby said at the end of the summit.

The leaders, he added, were determined to clear obstacles to “achieve the Arab customs union fully by 2015”.

On the sidelines of the summit, King Abdullah met with several Arab leaders on Monday and discussed ways to develop joint Arab cooperation.

Talks addressed ways to boost bilateral relations as well as the latest regional developments, especially the situation in Syria and Middle East peace efforts.

The King met with Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the Royal Court statement said.

Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf said officials working to facilitate a customs union were struggling to sort out rules on the origin of goods, AFP reported.

“We still have problems with the issue of country of origin... in order to establish which goods are from Arab countries and the percentage of foreign components,” he told reporters.

The regulations of the customs union stipulate that exempted goods should have at least 40 per cent local components.

Meanwhile, Arab leaders agreed amendments proposed to strengthen the flow of capital and investments between countries, Araby said.

Foreign direct investment inflow dropped from $68.7 billion in 2010 to $43 billion in 2011, a year that saw a wave of Arab Spring uprisings hitting several Arab nations, according to AFP.

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