Arab League rejects American decision on Israeli settlements

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit (C) attends an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 25, 2019, to discuss the US decision to no longer consider Israeli settlements in Palestinian Territories illegal. (AFP)
Updated 26 November 2019

Arab League rejects American decision on Israeli settlements

  • Ministers says move was a threat to peace and a flagrant violation of international law
  • Arab League said the US position shows ‘unprecedented disdain for the international system’

CAIRO: Arab League foreign ministers on Monday denounced the announcement by the US that it no longer considers Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank to be a violation of international law.

During an emergency meeting in Cairo, a week after the announcement by the Trump administration, League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit described the decision as “unfairly biased and unacceptable.” He added that the US had forfeited its role as a neutral arbiter between Israel and the Palestinians.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan reaffirmed the Kingdom’s rejection of the US position, and stressed the need to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue. Solving this is the cornerstone of achieving lasting peace, he added.

The Palestinian issue is at the heart of King Salman, the minister pointed out, adding that Saudi Arabia would continue to support the Palestinian cause.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the League’s foreign ministers expressed their “condemnation and rejection of the US decision.” It “has no legal effect and is a clear violation of UN resolutions,” they added.

Aboul Gheit said that all Arab states should hold extensive discussions with Washington in an attempt to persuade the US administration to reconsider its decision.

He pointed out that the announcement shows a blatant disregard for the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying force from moving parts of its civilian population to the lands under occupation. Therefore, he added, it damages Washington’s moral legitimacy and its credibility as a power that respects and enforces international law.

The overwhelming international consensus about the illegal nature of the settlements, Aboul Gheit said, means that the US announcement is no more than an individual opinion that follows the principle that power creates its own justice. This is a dangerous, widely rejected idea that calls into question the values of anyone who adopts or defends such a principle, he added

On Nov. 18, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem illegal. He said that after legal consultation, Washington had concluded the establishment of settlements was “not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”

This reversal of decades of US policy came nearly two years after President Donald Trump overturned another long-standing US policy by recognizing the contested holy city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting anger from Palestinians and Arabs.

After Pompeo’s announcement, the Arab League described the US shift as “an extremely adverse development.” Saudi cabinet ministers responded to the decision last week by calling on the international community to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people and confront Israel for its violations of international laws.

The UN human rights office has said the Israeli settlements remain in breach of international law, echoing a position taken by the International Court of Justice in an advisory opinion in 2004.

Palestinians say the settlements jeopardize their goal of the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.


Anger at Erdogan’s ‘sea grab’ in the Mediterranean

Updated 06 December 2019

Anger at Erdogan’s ‘sea grab’ in the Mediterranean

  • Cyprus petitioned the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday to safeguard its offshore mineral rights

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced growing anger on Thursday over Turkey’s “sea grab” in the Mediterranean.

Ankara signed a maritime border agreement last month with the Libyan government in Tripoli that gives Turkey control over a vast area of sea stretching from its southern coast to North Africa. The Turkish Parliament approved the deal last night.

The agreement gives Turkey lucrative rights to drill for oil and gas in areas that include the island of Crete’s territorial waters. Ankara says such islands are not entitled to territorial waters.

The deal has infuriated Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, who dismissed it as “illegal.” Cyprus petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Thursday to safeguard its offshore mineral rights. The ICJ has the power to issue binding decisions on countries that recognize its jurisdiction.

President Nicos Anastasiades said the island was committed to protecting its sovereign rights with every legal means possible. “Our recourse to The Hague has that very purpose,” he said.

The maritime border deal was also condemned by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the rival Libyan National Army in the eastern city of Benghazi. Haftar said the government in Tripoli had no authority to sign such an agreement, which was therefore void.