Arabs in UN protest against US Golan stand

Arab states to seek an opinion from the ICJ “on the illegality and invalidity of the American recognition”

By AP
  • Published 1.04.19, 1:41 AM
  • Updated 1.04.19, 1:41 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on Sunday, March 31, 2019. Leaders meeting in Tunisia for the annual summit are united in their condemnation of Trump administration policies seen as unfairly biased toward Israel. (AP)

Arab leaders said on Sunday they would push for a UN Security Council resolution against the US decision to recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli territory and warned other countries against any move to follow suit.

Arab states would submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council and seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice “on the illegality and invalidity of the American recognition”, they said in a statement issued after the Arab League summit in Tunisia.

The Arab leaders invited non-Arab Iran to work with Arab countries on the basis of good neighbourly ties and without interfering in each others’ internal affairs.

“We affirm that cooperative relations between Arab countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran be based on good neighbourliness,” they said in a statement at the end of the summit.

The Arab leaders have been under popular pressure to reject Washington’s action, while they also grapple with regional differences, including a bitter Gulf Arab dispute, splits over Iran’s regional influence, the war in Yemen and unrest in Algeria and Sudan.

The abrupt departure from the summit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who is locked in a row with Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, suggested regional differences were not easily buried. No reason was given for his departure.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told Arab monarchs, Presidents and Prime Ministers at the meeting that his country “absolutely rejects” any measures affecting Syria’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation last week recognising the Golan Heights as part of Israel, which annexed the area in 1981 after capturing it from Syria in 1967.

Trump’s Golan decision followed a US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a decision that also drew Arab condemnation. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said Arab leaders also needed to ensure the international community understood the importance of the Palestinian cause to Arab nations.

Regional and international stability should come through “a just and comprehensive settlement that includes the rights of the Palestinian people and leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital”, Essebsi said.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who addressed the meeting in Tunis, had said earlier in the day that any resolution to the Syrian conflict must guarantee the territorial integrity of Syria, “including the occupied Golan Heights”.

The Tunis summit brought together the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the first time at the same gathering since 2017 when Riyadh and its allies imposed a political and economic boycott on Doha.

But Qatar’s emir left the summit hall shortly after Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit praised the way Saudi Arabia handled its rotating Arab League presidency last year, live television footage showed.

Qatar’s state news agency did not say why Tamim left, but Tunisia’s state news agency TAP said the rest of Qatar’s delegation stayed.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and say it has been cosying up to Iran, a charge Doha denies.

The leaders of Sudan and Algeria were not at Sunday’s meeting as both nations have been roiled by anti-government protests. Syria’s seat at the summit was vacant. Damascus has been suspended from the league since 2011 over its crackdown on protesters at the start of its civil war.

Israel-Gaza ease

Israel reopened its commercial crossing with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, a day after a smaller-than-expected Palestinian protest along the volatile frontier. In another sign of the confrontation easing — as Egyptian mediators pushed on for a full ceasefire — Palestinians said Israel would on Monday almost double the breadth of Mediterranean waters where they are permitted to fish. Reuters