Arab Leaders Condemn U.S. Move on Golan Heights at Tunisia Summit

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Arab Leaders Condemn U.S. Move on Golan Heights at Tunisia Summit

Arab leaders on Sunday condemned U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights, deeming the U.S. administration's policies as unfairly biased toward Israel.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the Arab League Summit in Tunisia, Arab leaders stressed their commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative according to which Arab countries would recognize Israel in return for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights as well as east Jerusalem and the West Bank, lands occupied in the 1967 war.

The closing statement defended the Golan Heights as Syrian occupied territory, also affirming that the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba Hills are occupied lands that belong to Lebanon.

Arab leaders called on Iran to abide by the principle of good neighborliness, urging cooperative ties between Arab countries and Tehran without interfering in each others' internal affairs.

Speaking at the beginning of the summit, Saudi Arabia's King Salman said that he "absolutely rejects" any measures that affect Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights, stressing the need to sort the Syrian crisis.

The Saudi monarch also renewed his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state that would have East Jerusalem as its capital.

King Salman slammed Iran's interference in the Arab countries' affairs as a "flagrant violation of international principles", calling on the international community to shoulder its responsibility by countering the policies that Iran adopts to support terrorism.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said any settlement to ensure stability in the region must be "just and comprehensive" in terms of securing the rights of the Palestinian people, adding that it should also lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who also attended the summit, recognized the critical importance of the region on the international stage and called for even stronger cooperation between the UN and the Arab States.

“North Africa and the Middle East are home to remarkable dynamism and potential. It is a region long-striving to build peace and prosperity. I believe it is vital for this region to assume that destiny,” he said in his address.

“The United Nations has no other agenda than to support those aspirations in a spirit of solidarity and unity.”

“I strongly appeal for the unity of the Arab world as a fundamental condition for peace and prosperity in the region, and to avoid leaving the region vulnerable to interference by foreign parties with destabilizing effects,” Guterres stressed.

The UN chief then spoke of four specific issues in the region that could benefit from a comprehensive regional approach, starting with the imperative for a two-State solution, for Israel and Palestine, “living side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders, and with Jerusalem as capital of both States”.

“There is no Plan B: without two states, there is no solution,” he stated.

The second specific issue the UN chief mentioned is the conflict in Yemen, assuring that efforts are ongoing to achieve progress towards the redeployment of forces in Hudaydah and the opening of humanitarian corridors on the way to a political solution for Yemen.

Third, regarding the eight-year long conflict in Libya, he hailed the recent progress towards building political consensus for convening the National Conference, noting it is “high time that Libya achieves unified institutions and concludes the transitional stages with general elections.”

Finally, he mentioned that, as “millions of Syrians remain displaced and in need, and tens of thousands are arbitrarily detained…we must keep working to forge a political path to a sustainable peace in which all Syrians are heard, grievances are addressed, and needs are met.”

“Any resolution of the Syrian conflict must guarantee the unity, the territorial integrity of Syria, including the occupied Golan,” he stressed.

Also speaking at the summit, EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini expressed concern over the politics of fait accompli or of the zero sum game, saying that it is time for everyone to realize "that a solution imposed by force is never a sustainable solution, and a solution that is not inclusive, is never a sustainable solution."

"A divided and sectarian Syria is not a solution. Leaving the Palestinians without a state is not a solution. Ignoring UN Security Council Resolutions on the Golan Heights is not a solution. And let me be very clear: the European Union will continue to not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967," she said.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani left the summit shortly after attending the opening session, without delivering a speech or attending the closed-door meeting held afterwards.