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Syria slams Trump statement on Israel sovereignty in Golan

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during their visit to Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem, Thursday March 21, 2019. (Amir Cohen/Pool via AP)
2019-03-22

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SULAIMANI — Syria slammed President Donald Trump’s abrupt declaration that Washington will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, saying Friday (March 22) the statement was “irresponsible” and a threat to international peace and stability.

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

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 American 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 had pressed the matter with visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week.

Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The 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 US disdain to the international legitimacy and violates its resolutions, especially Security Council resolution 497” while also threatening “international peace and stability.”

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit also criticized the American 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 US 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 US move. That force’s mandate expires at the end of June.

There had been signals that a US 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.”

(NRT Digital Media/AP)