Dignitaries attend closing session of Arab League Summit at Bayan Palace, Kuwait
Dignitaries attend closing session of Arab League Summit at Bayan Palace, Kuwait on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Photo by AP
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Arab leaders said Wednesday they would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, blaming it for a lack of progress in the Mideast peace process.

"We hold Israel entirely responsible for the lack of progress in the peace process and continuing tension in the Middle East, the League communique said. "We express our absolute and decisive rejection to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state."

The statement, which came at the end of a two-day summit in Kuwait, also rejected what the Arab League described as the continuation of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and the "Judaization" of Jerusalem and "attacks in its Muslim and Christian shrines and changing its demographics and geography."

On Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the summit,  charging that during the past eight months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Israel has refused to end the occupation and instead worked to perpetuate it. Rather than seeking to achieve a just and viable peace, he added, Israel has recently erected new obstacles to such a peace, like its demand for recognition as a Jewish state.

In Israel, a senior official accused Abbas of threatening to "torpedo the peace process" and parading "rejectionism as a virtue."

"By reiterating his adversarial maximalist position, Abbas is undermining President (Barack) Obama's vision of peace and torpedoing Secretary Kerry's efforts to move the process forward," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The League's announcement rejects a key demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Mideast peace talks.

Netanyahu believes there cannot be peace without such a recognition. The Palestinians oppose this, saying it harms the rights of Palestinian refugees displaced from what is now Israel, as well as those of Israel's Arab minority.

Wednesday's announcement sets the stage for the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to take a tough line in talks later in the day with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jordan.

Arab leaders, at loggerheads over numerous issues including Egypt and Syria, pledged at the end of a two-day summit in Kuwait on Wednesday to work to end their divisions.

The 22 members of the Arab League also denounced killings of civilians by the Syrian government.

"We pledge to work decisively to put a final end to divisions," read their final statement, read out to media by Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah.

Three weeks ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, accusing it of failing to abide by an accord not to interfere in fellow Arab states' internal affairs.

Officials have said the spat was over Qatar's support for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which was ejected from power by the military last year after mass protests against the Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, and has now been outlawed.

Arab states have also been at odds over the civil war in Syria, with some countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar supporting rebels battling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, while a minority back Assad.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the massacres and the mass killing committed by the Syrian regime's forces against the unarmed people," the final communique read.

"We call for a political solution to the Syrian crisis in accordance with the Geneva One declaration."