Syrians take to the streets: Golan belongs to Syria

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Syrians demonstrate in the Golan Heights in support of President Bashar Al-Assad

PEOPLE have once again taken to the streets across Syria to protest against US President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Israeli ‘sovereignty’ over the occupied Golan Heights.

Demonstrations were held in the different neighbourhoods of Damascus and its countryside. A rally was also held at a cultural centre in the north eastern city of Qamishli.

Syrians also rallied in the various towns and villages of the province of Quneitra, near the Golan Heights. Dozens of activists gathered in the town of Jibbat al-Khashab in denunciation of Trump’s decision. They held banners and raised national flags to assert that ‘Golan is Arab and Syrian land.’

Social activists and local political groups also organised a mass gathering in the south western city of Sweida.

In Deir Ezzor, at a protest gathering organised by Awqaf Directorate, people censured Trump’s move, stressing that ‘it violates the resolutions of the UN Security Council’. They pledged to return the territory to the Syrian motherland.

Trump signed a proclamation recognising Israeli ‘sovereignty’ over the occupied Golan on Monday 25th March, triggering a global outcry.

US President Donald Trump has formally recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, a border area the Tel Aviv regime seized from Syria in 1967.

World countries — including Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Russia, and the European Union (EU) — have rejected the decision. So has Syria.

In 1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab territories, during which it occupied a large swathe of Golan and annexed it in 1981, a move never recognised by the international community.

Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.

  • Turkey will not turn back from a major arms deal with Russia despite the US suspension of Ankara from the F-35 fighter-jet programme, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday.

‘The S-400 deal is a done deal and we will not step back from this,’ he told a think-tank forum in Washington, where he is taking part in 70th anniversary celebrations of NATO.

The United States said on Monday that it was halting shipment of F-35 parts of Turkey as well as joint manufacturing work due to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.

Cavusoglu said Turkey turned to Russia as it could not buy US Patriot missiles and quoted President Donald Trump as saying in an unspecified phone call that his predecessor Barack Obama had made a ‘mistake’ not to sell the system to Ankara.

However, the Trump administration has since made clear that it is ready to sell Patriot missiles to Turkey – if it drops the S-400 system.

The Turkish foreign minister said the S-400 deal did not signal a warming toward Russia.

‘We disagree with Russia on many issues,’ Cavusoglu said, pointing to Moscow’s ‘aggression’ in the Black Sea and pledging never to recognise Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

‘We have been working with Russia,’ he said.

‘But it doesnt mean that we are undermining the alliance and we agree with Russia on everything. There is no shift on our foreign policy.’

US policymakers worry that Russia will obtain data from the F-35s to hone the ability of the S-400 to shoot down Western planes.

Cavusoglu said the S-400 system would be separate from NATO infrastructure in Turkey with no linkages to the F-35s.

  • Lebanese President Michel Aoun has told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, has popular support in the country.

‘Preserving national unity and civil peace is a priority for us,’ Aoun told Pompeo, the Lebanese presidency said on its Twitter feed.

Pompeo met with Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut last Friday.

The visiting top US diplomat claimed that his pressure on Iran and Hezbollah was working and urged Lebanon to stand up to the resistance movement which he accused of ‘terror and threats’.

‘Our pressure on Iran is simple. It’s aimed at cutting off the funding for terrorists and it’s working,’ he said in a statement after meeting Lebanese political leaders. We believe that our work is already constraining Hezbollah’s activities.

‘Lebanon and the Lebanese people face a choice: Bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future,’ he said.

Bassil stood side by side with Pompeo at the new conference but he rejected the terrorist denunciation of the US official for Hezbollah.

Bassil said he held ‘constructive and positive talks’ with Pompeo but added that their were differences of perspective with regards to Hezbollah.

‘Hezbollah is a Lebanese party, not a terrorist group, and it enjoys a wide popular base,’ he said.

‘We don’t want our ties with America to be affected and we want to work together to solve problems, including the issue with Hezbollah,’ he said.

Earlier, the long-serving speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, Nabih Berri, told Pompeo that American sanctions against Hezbollah were having a ‘negative impact on Lebanon and the Lebanese’.

Nabih Berri told the top US diplomat in a meeting in Beirut that Hezbollah is a Lebanese political party whose members are in the government and parliament, and that it is carrying out ‘resistance’ against Israel to free Lebanese territory from Israeli occupation.

Earlier in the day, Pompeo also met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Grand Serail, which is the headquarters of the Prime Minister of Lebanon.

The US secretary of state on Thursday declared he would be ‘very clear’ in his meetings in the Lebanese capital that ‘Lebanon’s success depends on the Lebanese people (demanding) that a terrorist organisation not be in control of their government and not drive policies’.

‘Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. You ask how tough I am going to be? It is a terrorist organisation. Period. Full stop,’ Pompeo said in the Israeli-occupied Jerusalem al-Quds on Thursday, before leaving for Lebanon.

Hezbollah was founded in the 1980s following the Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. The movement waged a long resistance campaign against Israeli forces and pushed them out of southern Lebanon in May 2000. Since then, the group has grown into a powerful military force. Israel also suffered a humiliating defeat from Hezbollah in the 2006 war.