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

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.” 

In the deserts of Dubai, salmon farming thrives

Updated 19 min 32 sec ago

In the deserts of Dubai, salmon farming thrives

  • The farming of salmon in the desert is “something that no one could have imagined,” said Bader bin Mubarak
  • Fish Farm produces 10,000 to 15,000 kilos of salmon every month

DUBAI: From a control room in the middle of Dubai’s desert, Norway’s sunrises and sunsets and the cool currents of the Atlantic are recreated for the benefit of thousands of salmon raised in tanks despite searing conditions outside.
Dubai is no stranger to ambitious projects, with a no-limits approach that has seen a palm-shaped island built off its coast, and a full-scale ski slope created inside a shopping mall.
But the farming of salmon in the desert is “something that no one could have imagined,” said Bader bin Mubarak, chief executive of Fish Farm. “This is exactly what we’re doing in Dubai.”
Inside the facility, waters flow and temperatures fluctuate to create the most desirable conditions for the salmon living in four vast tanks.
“We provide for them a sunrise, sunset, tide, a strong current or a simple river current — and we have deep waters and shallow waters,” Mubarak told AFP.
Even for a country known for its extravagant ventures, building Fish Farm, located along the southern border of the emirate, was a challenging endeavour.
Salmon usually live in cold waters such as those in and off Iceland, Norway, Scotland and Alaska — which is why the farming of Atlantic salmon in a country where temperatures can reach up to 45C (113 degrees F) is a stretch to say the least.
“Creating the (right) environment for the salmon was the hardest thing we faced,” Mubarak told AFP.
“But we came up with the idea of dark water that resembles deep water, a strong current like the ocean with the same salinity and temperature of the Atlantic.”
Fish Farm bought some 40,000 fingerlings — or juvenile fish — from a hatchery in Scotland and thousands more eggs from Iceland to raise in open tanks in Dubai’s southern district of Jebel Ali.
Salmon are born in freshwater but live in salt water for much of their lives before returning to freshwater to spawn.
At their home in the United Arab Emirates, the tanks are filled with sea water that is cleaned and filtered.
Fish Farm produces 10,000 to 15,000 kilos of salmon every month.
It was established in 2013 with the support of Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, to farm salmon and other fish including Japanese amberjack, which is used to prepare sushi.
Mubarak said that because of the technical challenge, salmon-raising remains the “greatest production” of the farm, which supplies to Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates, where the population includes millions of expatriates.
“The UAE imports around 92 percent of its fish from abroad, and the goal today is to be able to fulfil (that demand) for imports internally, so that we have food security,” Mubarak said.
“In case there is an interruption, cyclone or floods, the UAE will be able to supply itself. This is the main objective.”
Another goal is to be environmentally friendly and, in a move also motivated by the high cost of electricity, Fish Farm has plans to go solar-powered.
The ecological pros and cons of farming fish on land, compared to raising them in rivers and seas, are hotly debated, as is the alternative of harvesting wild fish.
“There are animal welfare concerns about keeping fish whose natural behavior is to swim freely in seas and rivers in closed tanks,” said Jessica Sinclair Taylor, from Feedback Global, a London-based environmental group.
“There are also concerns about the energy requirements and therefore carbon emissions.”
But she said that on the plus side, land-based farming prevents water pollution in lakes or seas where salmon farms are sometimes sited, and where waste and run-off can damage marine ecosystems.
According to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UAE imported 2.3 billion dirhams ($630 million, 570 million euros) of fish products, crustaceans and molluscs in 2017 and exported 280 million dirhams’ worth.
Fish Farm, the UAE’s only fish farm, hopes to meet at least 50 percent of the country’s needs within two years, said Mubarak.
In April, Fish Farm began selling its products in supermarkets. Despite its decidedly unnatural origins, the salmon is marked “100 percent organic” because of the fish feed and the absence of antibiotics in a closed environment.
“It is (more expensive), but I also think about the quality — I’ve tried different salmon before and this is less greasy and my family prefers this one,” said Katja, a German residing in Dubai.
She said that UAE is “making really great efforts to produce not only fish but vegetables and other foods locally, and I think I should really support that.”