US call for Israeli sovereignty on Golan ‘contravenes international law’

In this file photo taken on May 22, 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Donald Trump speak upon the latter's arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019

US call for Israeli sovereignty on Golan ‘contravenes international law’

  • France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that recognizing Israeli sovereignty would be contrary to international law, in particular the obligation for states not to recognize an illegal situation

BAGHDAD: US President Donald Trump’s statement recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights “contravenes international law,” the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said on Twitter on Saturday.
Trump’s statement on Thursday marked a dramatic shift in US policy over the status of a disputed area that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East conflict and annexed in 1981 — a move not recognized internationally.
The Syrian regime on Friday asked the UN Security Council to uphold resolutions declaring that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights.
The regime’s Ambassador Bashar Jaafari urged the council to “take practical measures to ensure that the council is fulfilling ... its mandate in the implementation of its resolutions” concerning the Golan, in a letter seen by AFP.
The council is scheduled to discuss the Golan on Wednesday during a meeting on renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force deployed between Israel and Syria in the Golan, known as UNDOF.
In the letter, the ambassador also asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to reaffirm the UN position on Israel’s occupation of the Golan, which it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Asked about Trump’s stance, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said UN policy was based on council resolutions and those of the General Assembly on the status of the Golan.
“The resolutions are of course unchanged,” said Haq. “Our policies have not changed in that regard.”
The US backed Resolution 242 adopted in 1967, which calls on Israel to withdraw from territories it occupied in the Six-Day war and refers to the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”
The council adopted another resolution in 1973 that reaffirmed the demand for a withdrawal and in 1981, backed a separate measure that rejected Israel’s annexation of the Golan.
After Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a group of Arab countries presented a resolution in 2017 condemning the decision to the General Assembly that won overwhelming support.
UN diplomats said it was premature to speculate as to whether there would be a similar measure in the assembly.
The US move — which came as Trump’s ally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, faces elections — has caused dismay even among US allies, with France and Britain both saying that they still considered the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, feared the consequences of walking away from UN Security Council Resolution 242, which stressed the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”
“This is the most fundamental principle of international order and was the basis of US opposition to Saddam’s conquest of Kuwait and Putin’s of Crimea,” he said, referring to the 1991 Gulf War in which a US-led coalition freed Kuwait and Russia’s 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.
Sweden’s former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that Trump was returning to the law of the “jungle.”
“This is a catastrophic departure from the very basis of international law. Kremlin will applaud and apply the same principle to Crimea. Beijing will applaud and apply to South China Sea,” Bildt tweeted.
France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that recognizing Israeli sovereignty “would be contrary to international law, in particular the obligation for states not to recognize an illegal situation.”
Steven Cook, an expert on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations, in an article in Foreign Policy questioned the need to shake up the status quo, saying that US recognition only triggered fresh opposition to Israel’s longstanding control of the Golan, where 20,000 settlers live.
“In reality, there is no need for the recognition. Israel is in Golan for its own reasons, and nothing the Trump administration decides will change that,” he wrote.
Ilan Goldenberg of the Center for a New American Security said that Trump’s decision “stirs a hornet’s nest that didn’t need stirring.”
“Also, it makes it quite hard for the US to continue to contest Russia’s annexation of Crimea under the principle that taking territory by force is illegal. We now have no leg to stand on and the Russians will use it,” he tweeted.
“So why do it? Because this is awesome for Bibi’s politics,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.


Anti-Assad fighters withdraw from key area of northwest Syria

Updated 20 August 2019

Anti-Assad fighters withdraw from key area of northwest Syria

  • The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces
  • After eight years of civil war, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of opposition to President Bashar

BEIRUT: Jihadists and allied rebels withdrew from a key area of northwestern Syria Tuesday as President Bashar Assad’s forces pressed an offensive against the jihadist-run Idlib region, a war monitor said.
The fighters pulled back from the town of Khan Sheikun and the countryside to its south overnight and in the early hours of Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
On Monday, a Turkish military convoy crossed the border into the Idlib region, sparking condemnation from Damascus as Ankara alleged air strikes had targeted its troops.
The convoy halted just north of Khan Sheikhun on Monday afternoon and remained there on Tuesday, after government forces took control of a section of the highway into the town.
Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said Monday morning’s strike targeted a rebel vehicle scouting the road in front of the Turkish convoy.
“The Syrian army in its own way sent a clear message to the Turkish regime by forcing convoys sent by Ankara to help the terrorists in Khan Sheikhun to come to a halt,” it said.
It was a “clear warning against any Turkish attempt to resuscitate the terrorists,” the paper said, adding that the strike had “Russian support.”
After eight years of civil war, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of opposition to President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Since January, it has been administered by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance, which is led by jihadists from Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The region of some three million people was supposed to be protected by a Turkish-Russian buffer zone deal signed last year.
But government and Russian forces have subjected it to heavy bombardment since late April, killing more than 860 civilians, according to an Observatory toll.
The United Nations says the shelling and air strikes have also hit dozens of health facilities and caused more than 400,000 people to flee their homes.
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people since the rebels first took arms following the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.
Rival interventions by outside powers have turned it into a complex conflict with multiple battle fronts that has driven millions of civilians from their homes.