King Salman: We reject move to undermine Syrian sovereignty of Golan Heights

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(L to R) Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi stand together for the group family photo with other Arab leaders during the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (AFP)
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From left, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, attend the opening of the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, Sunday, March 31, 2019. (AP)
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Arab leaders pose together for the group family photo with other Arab leaders during the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (AFP)
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Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (C) chairs a session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 01 April 2019
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King Salman: We reject move to undermine Syrian sovereignty of Golan Heights

  • Saudi king addresses Arab League summit in Tunis
  • Says Palestinian issue is a top priority for the Kingdom

TUNIS: Any moves to undermine Syria’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights should be rejected, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told the Arab League summit on Sunday.

US President Donald Trump last week signed a proclamation recognizing the Golan as Israeli, less than four months after saying Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

King Salman said at the Arab League summit in Tunis that he absolutely rejects any measures that impact on Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“We reaffirm our absolute rejection of any measures that encroach upon Syrian sovereignty over the Golan, and we stress the importance of reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis that will guarantee Syria's security, unity and sovereignty and prevent foreign intervention.”

He also reiterated Saudi Arabia’s position supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. He said the Palestinian issue was a top priority for Saudi Arabia.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said that the Golan Heights is occupied Arab land, and rejected the US decision over sovereignty of territory.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the US decision is contrary to all international conventions. 

He also said that Iran and Turkey have "worsened some crises and created new problems," calling on Arab leaders to "unite as one force under one umbrella against the regional interventions."

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim abruptly left the Arab League summit after it opened and did not give a speech, Qatar News Agency reported. He left the Arab League summit “in protest at criticism of Turkey,” Al Arabiya reported citing news websites close to Qatar. 

Arab League spokesman Mahmoud Afifi said earlier that the 22-member bloc will aim to issue a proclamation affirming the international consensus that the Golan is occupied Syrian land.

King Salman praised the positive outcome of the Arab League Summit as he left Tunisia.  

The king also met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the summit. During the meeting, they reviewed regional developments and various efforts aimed at achieving peace and stability in the region.

In their final statement after the daylong summit, the leaders affirmed that the Golan, a strategic plateau once used to shell northern Israel, is "Syria's occupied territory."

The leaders also called on Iran to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Arab countries and condemned the Houthis' firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia.  

The annual summit also addressed the issue of readmitting Syria as a member of the Arab League, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iranian interference in Arab countries, and the war in Yemen.

The pan-Arab bloc froze Syria's membership in 2011 over a bloody government crackdown on protesters.

Many Arab countries have recently renewed ties with the government of President Bashar Assad.


‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019
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‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

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Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 

 

Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.


'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.