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.” 

Stranded Lebanese desperate to rebuild after blast

Updated 49 min 59 sec ago

Stranded Lebanese desperate to rebuild after blast

  • The blast wrecked thousands of homes and businesses in large parts of the capital
  • International humanitarian aid has poured into the Mediterranean city of some 2 million people

BEIRUT: Sitting amid the debris, Lebanese on Wednesday expressed their frustration at the state for abandoning them in their desperate efforts to rebuild after last week’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion compounded a dire financial crisis.
Lebanon has been plunged into further political uncertainty after the government resigned this week over the Aug. 4 blast that killed at least 171 people, injured some 6,000 and wrecked homes and businesses in large parts of the capital.
International humanitarian aid has poured into the Mediterranean city of some 2 million people and Germany’s foreign minister arrived in Beirut on Wednesday in the latest visit by a foreign dignitary.
But residents said they needed practical help now.
“Who knows what will happen. How will we get back to business,” said Antoinne Matta, 74, whose safe and lock store was heavily damaged by the blast. Five employees were wounded.
“We in Lebanon are used to the government not doing anything.”
Unrest has erupted with Lebanese calling for the wholesale removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling class they brand as responsible for the country’s woes, including an economic meltdown that has ravaged the currency, paralyzed banks and sent prices soaring.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay, given the depths of the financial crisis that has seen people frozen out of their savings accounts since October amid dollar scarcity.
The central bank has instructed local banks to extend exception interest-free dollar loans to individuals and businesses for essential repairs, and that it would in turn provide those financial institutions with the funding.

‘Everything is gone’
Bandali Gharabi, whose photo studio was destroyed, said that so far local authorities had only give him a compensation sheet to fill out. He does not know if the bank will provide financial assistance because he already has a car loan.
“Everything is gone,” he said. “I just want someone to rebuild my shop.”
President Michel Aoun has promised a swift and transparent investigation into the blast at a warehouse where authorities say more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years without safety measures. He has said the probe would look into whether it was negligence, an accident or external factors.
Reuters reported that Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab were warned in July about the warehoused ammonium nitrate, according to documents and senior security sources.
The presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the warning letter.
Diab, when announcing his cabinet’s resignation, blamed endemic graft for the explosion, which was the biggest in Beirut’s history.
The World Bank Group said last week it would work with Lebanon’s partners to mobilize public and private financing for reconstruction and recovery. An emergency donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief.
Volunteers and construction workers with bulldozers were still clearing wreckage from neighborhoods more than a week after the blast. Rows of destroyed cars were still parked in front of damaged stores and demolished buildings.
Nagy Massoud, 70, was sitting on the balcony when the blast gutted his apartment. He was saved by a wooden door that protected him from flying debris. A stove injured his wife.
His pension is frozen in a bank account he cannot access due to capital controls prompted by the economic crisis.
“Where is the government,” he said, looking around his shattered apartment.