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.


Dubai screens passengers from China amid virus outbreak

Updated 6 min 25 sec ago

Dubai screens passengers from China amid virus outbreak

  • The UAE said it was free of the coronavirus
  • China is the UAE’s top trading partner

DUBAI: Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s biggest aviation hubs, said Thursday it would carry out thermal screening of all passengers arriving from China amid an outbreak of a deadly virus.
The move goes further than other major transport hubs in Europe and the United States, which have limited their screening to passengers coming from Wuhan, the city at the center of the scare.
“Dubai Airports confirms... that all passengers arriving on direct flights from the People’s Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival,” a statement said.
China has locked down two major cities including Wuhan to fight the coronavirus that has already claimed 17 lives and spread to a number of other countries.
Dubai’s government said on Thursday that some 989,000 Chinese tourists visited the glitzy emirate last year and that the number was expected to cross the one-million mark in 2020. Some 3.6 million Chinese transited through the airport in 2019.
“The screening will be conducted on secured, closed gates at the airport by Dubai Health Authority and its Airport Medical Center team,” the statement said.
The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract.
Dubai International Airport in 2018 served 89.15 million passengers, retaining its world-number-one spot of welcoming the largest number of foreign passengers for the fifth year in a row.
There was no announcement as yet from authorities in the neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi which also has a large airport.
Dozens of flights operate weekly between Chinese cities and Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
China is the UAE’s top trading partner and Abu Dhabi is among the 15 top crude suppliers to Beijing. Several hundred Chinese companies have offices in the UAE.
The United Arab Emirates’ health ministry said Wednesday that the Gulf state with a population of 10 million — about 90 percent of them foreigners — was free of the coronavirus, and that it had taken sufficient measures to face the disease.
“The health situation poses no grounds for concern and the ministry is closely following up on the situation to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” it said.