Lebanon News

Aoun: Lebanon threatened by US Golan Heights decision

President Michel Aoun at the Arab Summit in Tunis, on Sunday March 31 2019. (The Daily Star/Aoun's Office, HO)

BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Sunday said that Lebanon was threatened by the recent U.S. decision to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights because some of its territories remained occupied by the Jewish state.

“This decision does not only threaten the sovereignty of a brotherly state [Syria], but rather threatens as well the sovereignty of the Lebanese state, which owns lands that were gradually bitten off by Israel,” Aoun told Arab heads of state at the 30th Arab League summit, held in Tunis.

“How can we, small countries, feel reassured anymore when international charters and rights are being undermined, and when the international legitimacy which governs the U.N.-recognized borders between states is being challenged?”

Israel currently occupies several areas that Lebanon claims as its territory, including the Shebaa Farms.

All Arab leaders who took to the podium Sunday roundly condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last week to officially recognize the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory, a dramatic shift from decades of American policy.

An ailing Saudi King Salman said in his opening address, “We reject any measures that would undermine Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also said in comments at the summit that he supported the “unity of Syria,” which includes the Golan Heights.

Aoun also suggested that Syria be let back into the Arab League. Damascus’ membership was suspended in 2011 over a heavy-handed crackdown on protestors by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Do we want Syria to return to its normal place among us and to the Arab family?” Aoun said. “If, gathered and united, we can barely counter such projects, how then if we are scattered and dispersed as it is the case today?”

The president also reiterated his appeals to Arab states and the international community to facilitate the return of over 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “Lebanon is too small for its own population. ... It is not capable anymore of hosting the equivalent of half of its citizens, and it will absolutely not accept any form of settlement,” he said.

 

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