Nations Slam Trump on Israel Sovereignty in Golan

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria and other nations slammed President Trump’s abrupt declaration that Washington will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Syria, saying Friday the statement was “irresponsible” and a threat to international peace and stability.

An Israeli flag flies over the village of Majdal Shams in Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in this October 2018 file photo. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The Foreign Ministry in Damascus said Trump’s comments confirm “the blind bias of the United States to the Zionist entity,” and added that Trump’s statement won’t change “the fact that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian.”

The ministry also said Damascus is now more intent on liberating the Golan, “using every possible means.”

Trump’s announcement the day before was a major shift in U.S. policy and gives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a political boost a month before what is expected to be a close election.

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic highlands, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, for some time and Netanyahu pressed the matter with visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week.

Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. U.N. Security Council resolution 497, issued after the annexation, refers to Israel as “the occupying power” and says Israel’s attempt to “impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”

Damascus also said Trump’s statement “clearly shows the U.S. disdain to the international legitimacy and violates its resolutions, especially Security Council resolution 497” while threatening “international peace and stability.”

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit criticized the U.S. stance, saying it “comes outside the international legitimacy and no country, no matter how important it is, can make such a decision.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Trump’s “unfortunate” declaration has brought the region “to the brink of a new crisis and new tensions.” 

“We will never allow the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights,” Erdogan added.

The U.S. will be the first country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, which the rest of the international community regards as territory occupied by Israel whose status should be determined by negotiations between Israel and Syria. Attempts to bring Israel and Syria to the table have failed.

It was not immediately clear how a U.N. peacekeeping force that is in place in the Golan might be affected by the U.S. move. That force’s mandate expires at the end of June.

There had been signals that a U.S. decision was coming. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.”

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