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Russia, Iran and Syria blast US over Golan Heights

March 22, 2019

A statement by President Donald Trump that the US should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is likely to stir tensions. Europe alongside Russia, Syria and Iran warned against any unilateral moves.

Syrien - Israel | Iran greift Golanhöhen an
Image: picture-alliance/Xinhua News Agency

A host of countries on Friday criticized President Donald Trump's announcement that the United States intends to unilaterally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied-Golan Heights.

The move comes as Israel has been pushing the Trump administration for recognition and some members of the Republican Party are backing the idea.

Russia, Syrian and Iranian positions

  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry said changing Golan's status would violate UN Security Council Resolutions.
  • Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the move showed "the blind bias of the United States to the Zionist entity," in reference to Israel.
  • Damascus added that Trump's statement won't change "the fact that Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian."
  • Iran's Foreign Ministry said the "illegal and unacceptable recognition does not change the fact that it belongs to Syria."

Other reactions

The European Union said that "in line with international law, (the EU) does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, including the Golan Heights and does not consider them to be part of Israel's territory."

The German Foreign Ministry said the goverment rejects unilateral moves and national borders can only change through peaceful negotiations.

In Turkey, where the Organization of the Islamic Conference was gathering, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Trump's announcement "brings the region to the edge of a new crisis."

Read more: Golan Heights: Why it matters to US, Israel and Syria

The golan heights
Image: .

What Trump said: The president wrote in a tweet the day before that it was time for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the strategic territory that was captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-day War and annexed in 1981.

What is the significance of US announcement?

The US announcement over the Golan Heights is likely to stoke regional tensions over the contested territory, which Syria demands be returned in exchange for any future peace deal with Israel.

Iranian forces backing the Assad regime, its Lebanese ally Hezbollah and the Syrian Army have positions close to the Israel-Syria frontier. This is viewed as a threat by Israel, which has carried out scores of airstrikes to push back against Iranian entrenchment in Syria. 

US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights would also set a precedent that territory can be captured in war in violation of international law. UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 497, both supported by the United States, provide the legal basis stating that Israeli occupation of Syrian territory is in violation of international law.

Golan Heights Recognition

Why now?

The Syrian civil war has severely weakened the authority of the state, giving Israel an opportunity to exert its claims over the Golan Heights. It also comes as Israeli’s right-wing government has a friend in the Trump administration which already recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital .

Analysts say Trump’s announcement may give a boost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of April 9 elections and distract attention away from multiple corruption investigations swirling around him. 

cw/rt (dpa, Reuters, AP)

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