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.


Saudi-led military committee moves heavy weapons outside Aden

Updated 25 January 2020

Saudi-led military committee moves heavy weapons outside Aden

  • The internationally recognized government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council are obliged to hand over their heavy weapons

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A military committee led by Saudi officers in Yemen has transported heavy weapons from bases in the southern port city of Aden, a committee member told Arab News on Friday. 

“We’ve moved tanks, cannons and ammunition from Aden military bases to a military outpost in Ras Abbas, on the outskirts of Aden,” said the member on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Under the Riyadh Agreement, the internationally recognized government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council are obliged to hand over their heavy weapons to the Saudi-led military committee, which is tasked with collecting them at a location outside Aden before dispatching them to battlefields. 

The committee is also charged with making other security and military arrangements, including the withdrawal of forces from the southern provinces of Shabwa and Abyan. 

The Riyadh Agreement, signed in the Saudi capital in November, was designed to defuse tensions between both sides following bloody clashes last year in Aden, Shabwa and Abyan. 

Residents in Aden reported seeing columns of lorries carrying tanks leaving military bases and heading to the city’s outskirts.

Despite failing to meet some deadlines included in the Riyadh Agreement, many of its terms have been implemented.

These include the return of the prime minister, the partial withdrawal of forces, an exchange of prisoners and the process of disarmament.

Following the relocation of military units, Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is expected to appoint a new governor for Aden before forming a new government.

FASTFACT

Under the Riyadh Agreement, the internationally recognized government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council are obliged to hand over their heavy weapons to the Saudi-led military committee.

On the battlefield, heavy fighting continued on Friday in the Nehim district just outside Houthi-held Sanaa as government forces, backed by Saudi-led warplanes, pushed forward to pave the way for the liberation of the capital. Dozens have been killed since Wednesday as both sides claimed gains on the ground.

In Marib, senior army commanders on Friday said the army would keep pressing its offensive until the Houthis are expelled from Sanaa. 

At a meeting attended by the Saudi-led coalition commander in Marib, Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamed Al-Muzaini, Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Mohammed Ali Al-Maqdashi said the Yemeni Army is determined to push the Houthis out of Sanaa and other areas under their control, and to work on restoring state institutions. 

The commanders discussed military plans and the recent escalation of fighting in Nehim, Jouf and Marib.

The conflict in Yemen began in late 2014 when the Houthis seized Sanaa and began expanding across the country.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has helped government forces advance on all fronts, pushing the Houthis to mountainous provinces in northern Yemen.