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Diplomacy

Arab leaders condemn US Golan decision

League show united front against Trump’s Israel policy despite rifts.


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Updated: April 3, 2019

Arab leaders strongly rejected the US decision to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory at the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on Sunday, Xinhua News Agency reported.

In a final declaration, the Arab leaders said they “affirmed that the Golan is occupied Syrian territory according to international law, the decisions of the United Nations and the Security Council”, Agence France-Presse reported.

A separate statement dedicated solely to the issue called Washington’s move “invalid and illegitimate”.

The Arab leaders presented a unified front in rejecting the US move, despite their rifts over whether to restore Syria’s membership in the Arab League.

“It is true that America is the strongest military force in the world, but its decision is absolutely worthless,” League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told a closing news conference.

Arab leaders said in a statement that Arab states would submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council and seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice “on the illegality and invalidity of the American recognition”, according to a Reuters report.

The recent move by US President Donald Trump to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian territory of Golan Heights heads this year’s Arab League summit agenda.

Trump signed a proclamation on March 25 recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, marking a major shift in US policy in the Middle East.

The proclamation said that it is “appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights” because of the security needs of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Trump’s move and called the recognition “historic”. “In a day of history, we have never had a greater friend than President Trump,” he said.

In response, Syria’s Foreign Ministry called the US move a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

Trump’s decision drew broad opposition from the international community.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “clear that the status of Golan has not changed”.

Speaking at the Arab League summit in Tunis, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said the US decision is completely opposed to UN Security Council resolutions that consider the Golan Heights an Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

“The EU is working to achieve a political solution to the crisis in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions,” she said, adding that a political solution would be the only peaceful way to end the conflict in Syria.

In his phone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that the recognition of Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights would lead to violation of international law, impede the settlement of the Syrian crisis, and aggravate the situation throughout the Middle East.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that the US recognition would never legitimize Israeli occupation. On the contrary, the move would further increase tension in the region by preventing peace efforts in the Middle East.

Israel seized the Golan Heights in the third Middle East war in 1967 and annexed it in the 1980s, but the international community has never recognized the move.

UN Security Council Resolution 497, adopted unanimously in December 1981, decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is “null and void and without international legal effect”.



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