Arab leaders condemn US move on Golan

TUNIS: The Arab world on Sunday in a united voice rejected US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Gathering for an annual summit in Tunisia, Arab leaders denounced the step and warned it would further inflame tensions in the region. Delegated by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, His Highness Sayyid Asaad bin Tareq al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Affairs, Personal Representative of His Majesty the Sultan, led the Sultanate’s delegation at the Arab Summit in the presence of leaders and presidents of Arab governments.

“We underline again our categorical rejection of any measures which can affect Syria’s sovereignty over Golan,” said Saudi King Salman. His remarks echoed those of senior Arab officials before Sunday’s summit of the Arab League, which ended with a final declaration agreed by the 22 member states. Israel seized the strategic Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel annexed the territory in 1981, though this move has not been recognised internationally. Last week, Trump signed a proclamation endorsing Israel’s rule over Golan in a ceremony at the White House attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The move followed last year’s relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking anger in the Muslim world. “Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty on Golan and his earlier recognition of Jerusalem as (Israel’s) capital violate all international resolutions,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun said at the meeting. “Trump’s decision not only threatens the sovereignty of a sisterly country (Syria), but also the sovereignty of the Lebanese state that has lands which Israel has gradually bitten (into),” he added in Arabic, referring to a disputed border area with Israel. The Arab League summit rejected Trump’s decision and called it “invalid,” according to a final statement draft.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned against “more dangerous” steps from the Trump administration. League head Ahmed Abdul Gheit was sharply critical of Trump’s decision. “Occupation is a crime and legalising (it) is a sin.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who addressed the meeting, said any resolution to the Syrian conflict must guarantee the territorial integrity of Syria “including the occupied Golan Heights”. Summit spokesman Mahmoud Al Khmeiry had said before the summit that Arab states would also repeat a call offering peace with Israel in exchange for occupied Arab lands and would reject any initiative not in line with UN resolutions.

Khmeiry appeared to be referring to a still-unannounced US peace plan by White House adviser Jared Kushner and Trump son-in-law that Palestinians have refused to discuss. The Arab Summit addressed a range of topics and issues that concern the Arab nation including the political developments of the Palestinian cause, activating the Arab peace initiatives, the crisis in Syria, developments in Libya and Yemen, as well as discussing the Arab security cooperation, countering terrorism, developing the Arab League among other several Arab economic and social topics. — Agencies