Arab leaders condemn US Golan decision at summit

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TUNIS, April 1, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Arab leaders slammed the US decision to
recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli territory at a summit in Tunis on
Sunday, but struggled for further unity as Qatar’s emir left the meeting
early.

In a final declaration the Arab League summit said it “affirmed that the
Golan is occupied Syrian territory according to international law, the
decisions of the United Nations and the Security Council”.

A separate statement dedicated solely to the issue called Washington’s move
“invalid and illegitimate”.

“It is true that America is the strongest military force in the world, but
its decision is absolutely worthless,” League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul
Gheit told a closing news conference.

President Donald Trump signed a proclamation Monday in which the United
States recognised Israel’s annexation of the strategic plateau that it seized
in 1967 and annexed in 1981.

Israel’s move has not been recognised internationally, and three UN
Security Council resolutions have called for it to withdraw from the
territory.

Trump’s shift on Golan had already drawn a string of angry reactions from
Arab capitals, despite proving problematic for key regional US allies such as
Saudi Arabia.

The decision has also drawn criticism from other Security Council members
and been rejected by the European Union.

The united front shown at the Tunis summit on the issue failed to mask
other deep divisions inside the Arab League, as it struggles with major
headaches such as a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf and conflicts in Syria and
Yemen.

In an apparent sign of the tensions, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-
Thani quit the gathering “after attending the opening ceremony”, the Gulf
state’s official QNA news agency reported, without giving any further
details.

A Tunisian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Qatari
leader had walked out during the speech of League chief Aboul Gheit, and “has
left Tunisia”.

Qatar is at the centre of a bitter Gulf standoff since June 2017, when
Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed
ties with Doha.

The Saudi-led bloc accuses Doha of supporting extremist groups and being
too close to Iran, charges Qatar denies.

The meeting in Tunis had brought together Saudi King Salman and the emir
for a rare encounter.

But an appeal by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi for the region to
“overcome its differences” appeared to have little impact as the Qatari ruler
left prematurely.

In his opening speech Aboul Gheit had blasted Turkey and Iran for their
“interference” in Arab countries, insisting that Tehran and Ankara had
worsened regional crises.

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