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Golan Heights: World leaders say Trump's announcement will fuel more violence

Syria, Russia and Turkey have condemned the US president's move to recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli territory
Trump's recognition of Israeli sovereignity over the heights upends decades of US neutrality
By in
22 March 2019

Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights has sent shock waves throughout the international community.

With one tweet, US President upended decades of American official neutrality on the territory which Israel seized from Syria during the Middle East war of 1967 and then annexed in 1981 in a move never recognised internationally.

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"After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights," Trump wrote on Thursday.

The US president’s moves come in the face of a 52-year old unanimously adopted UN resolution on "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and breaks with the post-war norm of refusing to recognise the forcible annexation of territory.

Damascus condemned the move on Friday, vowing Syria would recover the area using "all available means".

Syrian state news agency cited a foreign ministry source on Friday as saying Trump's statement showed "the blind bias of the United States" towards Israel.

It did not change "the reality that the Golan was and will remain Syrian, Arab," the source said.

"The Syrian nation is more determined to liberate this precious piece of Syrian national land through all available means," the source said, adding that Trump's statement was "irresponsible" and showed "contempt" for international law.

'Illegal and unacceptable'

Iran, Syria’s regional ally and arch-rival of Israel, branded the move as “illegal".

"This illegal and unacceptable recognition does not change the fact that it belongs to Syria," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said 

"The spontaneous decisions lift the curtain on the real policies of America -- policies that are dangerous for the whole world and will push this sensitive region towards successive crises," Bahram Ghasemi said.

Ghasemi promised that Iran would keep future events under observation and "adopt necessary policies in coordination with the Syrian government."

Russia, which has been rebuked by the United States for its annexation of Crimea in 2014, said the decision bypassed the United Nations Security Council.

'The Syrian nation is more determined to liberate this precious piece of Syrian national land through all available means'

- Syrian Foreign Ministry source

“Changing the status of the Golan Heights by bypassing the Security Council a direct violation of UN decisions,”  Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Israel’s annexation of the territory was condemned by the the UN Security Council in resolution 497 that states "the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect".

In a statement carried by state news agency MENA, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry cited UN Security Council resolution 497, stressing "the importance that everybody should respect the resolutions of international legitimacy and the United Nations Charter in respect of the inadmissibility of acquiring land by force," 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech at a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation: "We cannot allow the legitimisation of the occupation of the Golan Heights.”

And Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a tweet that US legitimisation of Israel’s actions “will only lead to more violence and pain".

Trump's comments recognising Israel's annexation are "completely outside international law", Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Thursday evening.

"It is a recognition that, if applied, creates no rights, carries no obligations and lacks any legal value."

The European Union underlined it does not recognise Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

"The position of the EU has not changed," an EU spokeswoman told Reuters. "The European Union, in line with international law, does not recognise 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.

Germany also distanced itself from Trump's move and said that "The government rejects unilateral steps."

"If national borders should be changed it must be done through peaceful means between all those involved," German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said.

France's foreign ministry said the annexation of the Golan Heights and its recognition by the US is contrary to international law.

"The Golan is a territory occupied by Israel since 1967. France does not recognise the Israeli annexation of 1981," the ministry said in a daily briefing, adding that U.N. Security Council resolutions had recognised the annexation as null and void.

"The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, occupied territory, would be contrary to international law, in particular the obligation for states not to recognise an illegal situation," the ministry also said.