Saudi Arabia condemns US move on occupied Golan Heights

Syrian national flags are flown in the Syrian town Ain Al-Tineh across from the Majd Al-Shams in the Israeli- annexed Golan Heights on March 26. (AFP)
Updated 27 March 2019
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Saudi Arabia condemns US move on occupied Golan Heights

  • Israel seized part of the Golan during the 1967 Six-Day War, subsequently annexing it in 1981
  • US President Trump officially recognized Israel's sovereignty of the Golan Heights on March 25, 2019

JEDDAH: The international community has been responding critically to US President Donald Trump’s signed declaration on Monday recognizing the illegally occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. 

The unprecedented decision overturns decades of US policy, previously aligned with the UN, that had acknowledged the Golan Heights as Syrian territory. 

Israel seized the area from Syria in 1967 and annexed it in 1981, in a move not recognized internationally. 

UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 242 stresses the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”

UNSC Resolution 497 states: “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.” 

Trump’s decision was followed within hours by a wave of international uproar. “The American announcement does not change the legal status of the Golan in any way,” the Arab League said in a statement. 

“The Golan Heights remains occupied Syrian territory. All this will be addressed at next week’s (Arab League) summit in Tunisia,” it added. 

“Legitimization of the (Israeli) occupation is the new orientation of U.S. policy … which has become fully compatible with the positions and desires of Israel.”

The UN secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “It is clear that the status of the Golan has not changed. The UN’s policy on the Golan is reflected in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and that policy has not changed.”

Saudi Arabia firmly rejected Trump’s decision, and affirmed its position that the Golan Heights is occupied Syrian land in accordance with relevant international resolutions. 

“It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region,” said Saudi Media Minister Turki Al-Shabanah.

The Kingdom's Shura council said they refuse to accept the US decision of recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying such declarations are unable to change history, SPA reported.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement: “The US move will definitely undermine the possibility of reaching a just and comprehensive peace in the region.” 

It added: “Regional stability and peace will never be possible as long as Israel continues its occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories.” 

Oman’s Foreign Ministry said Trump’s decision “does not change the fact that the Golan Heights is Syrian land,” and “does not help to keep the region stable.”

The other Arab Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, all regional allies of Washington, also rejected the decision.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry called the decision a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” and a “humiliating blow to the international community.” 

A Foreign Ministry spokesman added: “Trump does not have the right or the legal authority to legitimize the occupation.” 

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that thousands of people had gathered in the streets of several cities to protest Trump’s decision.

Syrian opposition chief Nasr Al-Hariri said Trump’s decision will “lead to more violence and instability, and it will have negative effects on efforts to engineer peace in the region.” 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “No one could imagine that a person in America comes and gives land of a nation to another occupying country, against international laws and conventions ... Such action is unprecedented in the current century.”

An EU spokesperson said the bloc will not change its position regarding the Golan Heights in the wake of Trump’s decision.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said a change in the territory’s status would be a direct violation of UN decisions. 

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a private meeting in Moscow with Lebanese President Michel Aoun to discuss the US decision.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Such decisions undoubtedly have negative consequences from the point of view of a settlement in the Middle East and the general atmosphere of a political settlement in Syria.” 

Lebanon said the move “violates all the rules of international law” and “undermines any effort to reach a just peace.” 

The Foreign Ministry added: “The Golan Heights are Syrian Arab land, no decision can change this, and no country can revisit history by transferring ownership of land from one country to another.”

Aoun said: “The leader of a foreign state has no right to dispose of someone else’s territories this way.”

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian said the decision “is against all international and UN laws.” 

It “will have dangerous repercussions in the Middle East, and will affect security and stability in the region,” he added.

“What has been issued is not legitimate, but is a challenge and a flagrant attack on the rights of Arabs and Muslims.”

At a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkish President Erdogan said: “We cannot allow the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights.”

The Canadian government said in a statement: “In accordance with international law, Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over the Golan Heights. Canada’s long-standing position remains unchanged.” 

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne tweeted: “The Golan Heights is a matter for Israel and Syria to determine through negotiations in the context of a comprehensive peace settlement. US policy positions are a matter for the US Government.”

France and Germany issued statements last week in an attempt to pre-empt Trump’s decision. “#GolanHeights: France does not recognize the Israeli annexation of 1981,” the Foreign Ministry tweeted. 

“The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, an occupied territory, would be contrary to international law.” 

A German government spokesman said: “If national borders should be changed it must be done through peaceful means between all those involved.” 


Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

An Asian domestic worker walks her employer's dog in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

  • Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.