A view of Mont Bental in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on January 20, 2019. Photo: Jalaa Marey / AFP

The leaders of the Arab world strongly criticized Washington’s decision to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory at a meeting in Tunis on Sunday but struggled for further unity as Qatar’s emir left the meeting early.

In a final declaration, the Arab League summit said it “affirmed that the Golan is occupied Syrian territory according to international law, the decisions of the United Nations and the Security Council.”

A separate statement dedicated solely to the issue called Washington’s move “invalid and illegitimate.”

“It is true that America is the strongest military force in the world, but its decision is absolutely worthless,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told a closing news conference.

US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation Monday in which the United States recognized Israel’s annexation of the strategic plateau that it seized in 1967 and annexed in 1981.

Israel’s move has not been recognized internationally, and three UN Security Council resolutions have called for it to withdraw from the territory.

The US president’s shift on Golan had already sparked outrage in Arab capitals, despite proving problematic for key regional allies of America such as Saudi Arabia.

The decision has also attracted criticism from other Security Council members and been rejected by the European Union.

The united front shown at the Tunis summit on the issue failed to mask other deep divisions inside the Arab League, as it struggles with major difficulties such as a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf and conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

In an apparent sign of the tensions, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani left the gathering “after attending the opening ceremony,” the Gulf state’s official QNA news agency reported.

A Tunisian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Qatari leader had walked out during the speech of League chief Aboul Gheit, and “has left Tunisia.”

– with reporting by Agence France-Press

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