March 26, 2019
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold up a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights as Netanyahu exits the White House from the West Wing in Washington, U.S. March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
By Maher Chmaytelli
DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights united Washington’s Arab allies and their regional foe Iran in condemnation on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait criticized Monday’s move to recognize Israel’s 1981 annexation and said the territory was occupied Arab land. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi said it was an impediment to peace.
Iran echoed the comments, describing Trump’s decision as unprecedented in this century.
“No one could imagine that a person in America comes and gives land of a nation to another occupying country, against international laws and conventions,” President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Trump, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looking over his shoulder during a visit to Washington, on Monday signed a proclamation officially granting U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
The European members of the United Nations Security Council – France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Poland – said they did not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories it has occupied since June 1967, including the Golan Heights.
“We raise our strong concerns about broader consequences of recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences,” they said on Tuesday.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move the U.N. Security Council declared unlawful.
“It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region,” said a statement on Saudi state news agency SPA.
It described the declaration as a clear violation of the U.N. Charter and of international law.
Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner visited the Gulf Arab region last month to seek support for the economic portion of a long-awaited peace proposal for the Middle East. Gulf Arab states host U.S. troops and are important for Washington’s regional defense policy.
Qatar, which has been at loggerheads with other Gulf states over its policies, joined them in rejecting Trump’s move and called on Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights and comply with international resolutions.
Lebanon said the decision contravened international law.
“The world is witnessing a black day,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun wrote on Twitter during a visit to Russia.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, a key Damascus ally, said the move was evidence of U.S. “disdain and disregard” for the Arab and Muslim world and of international law.
“This absolute supporter of Israel cannot be a sponsor of the peace process and here he is today dealing a deadly blow to the so-called peace process,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
Nasrallah said Trump had been emboldened by Arab “silence” after U.S. recognition last year of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and warned that the West Bank, also captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, could be next.
Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, Mohamed El-Sherif in Cairo, Laila Bassam and Ghaida Ghantous in Beirut, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, writing by Sylvia Westall; editing by William Maclean, Ed Osmond, Peter Graff and Jonathan Oatis