GCC ‘regrets’ Trump’s call to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights

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The Golan Heights were seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War. (AFP/File photo)
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US President Donald Trump said it’s now willing to recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the disputed Golan Heights. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019

GCC ‘regrets’ Trump’s call to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights

  • Syria says the statement showed “the blind bias of the United States” toward Israel
  • Other Arab and western countries voice their opposition to US change of stance

BEIRUT: The Gulf Cooperation Council expressed regret on Friday at Donald Trump's call to recognise Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, territory captured from Syria in a 1967 war.
Trump's statement "will not change the reality that (...) the Arab Golan Heights is Syrian land occupied by Israel by military force in 1967," said Abdul Latif Al Zayani, the GCC secretary general.

"The statements by the American president undermine the chances of achieving a just and comprehensive peace."

The GCC's comments came as the Syrian government vowed on Friday to recover the territory from Israel. Other countries, both Syria's allies and enemies, in the region and the West also condemned the US president's comments - which marked the latest major US policy shift on Israel.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981 — a move not recognized internationally.

Here are the reactions to Trump's statement: 

Gulf Cooperation Council

The Gulf Cooperation Council regional group of six Arab countries expressed regret on Friday at US President Donald Trump’s call to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory captured from Syria in a 1967 war.

Trump’s statement “will not change the reality that (...) the Arab Golan Heights is Syrian land occupied by Israel by military force in 1967,” said Abdul Latif Al Zayani, the GCC secretary general.

“The statements by the American president undermine the chances of achieving a just and comprehensive peace.”

European Union

The European Union underlined it does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights on Friday.

“The position of the EU has not changed,” an EU spokeswoman told Reuters. “The European Union, in line with international law, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, including the Golan Heights and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory.”

Egypt
Egypt also said on Friday it considers the territory as occupied Syrian land.

In a statement carried by state news agency MENA, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry cited U.N. Security Council resolution 497 of 1981 which rejected Israel's annexation of the territory.

The ministry “stressed the importance that everybody should respect the resolutions of international legitimacy and the United Nations Charter in respect of the inadmissibility of acquiring land by force,” the statement said.

Iraq

In a tweet, Iraq’s foreign ministry said the US call for Israeli sovereignty on Golan Heights contravenes international law.

France

The French Foreign Ministry said the sovereignty of Israel over the Golan Heights would be contrary to international law.

Germany

The Golan Heights is Syrian territory occupied by Israel, a German government spokeswoman said on Friday when asked about U.S. President Donald Trump's call to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the strategic territory.

“If national borders should be changed it must be done through peaceful means between all those involved,” spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

“The government rejects unilateral steps.”

Iran, Russia, and Turkey

Russia and Iran, military allies of Damascus, condemned the shift toward recognition — comments which the Syrian government said showed Washington’s “blind” pro-Israeli bias.
“The Syrian nation is more determined to liberate this precious piece of Syrian national land through all available means,” the Syrian state news agency cited an official source as saying.
The Golan Heights would remain “Syrian, Arab,” it said, saying the statement showed contempt for international law.
Turkey, a US-allied state and an adversary of the Damascus government, also criticized the move, saying it had brought the Middle East to the edge of a new crisis and the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights could not be allowed.
“US President Trump’s unfortunate statement yesterday has brought the region to the brink of a new crisis,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said.
Iran said the US position was illegal and unacceptable, and Russia said a change in the status of the Golan Heights would be a direct violation of UN resolutions.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is touring the region, is due in Beirut on Friday where he will he will meet political allies of the powerful, Iran-backed Hezbollah, including President Michel Aoun.
Both Iran and Russia have deployed forces into Syria in support of President Bashar Assad during the Syrian conflict, with Iran sending both its own forces and also backing regional Shiite militias such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah that have helped Damascus.
“This illegal and unacceptable recognition does not change the fact that it belongs to Syria,” an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman was cited as saying by state TV.

In a speech at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkey’s Erdogan said: “we cannot allow the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights.”

Arab League
The Arab League, which suspended Syria in 2011, said Trump’s comment paved “the way for official American recognition” of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the statements were “completely beyond international law.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pressed the United States to recognize its claim and raised that possibility in his first White House meeting with Trump in February 2017.

Trump’s statement has given a boost to Netanyahu in the middle of his re-election campaign.
Netanyahu has praised Trump for “making history” with the statement.
“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Trump’s move followed the US recognition in December 2017 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a decision that also drew international criticism as the disputed city’s status remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.


Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.