Tue Mar 26, 2019
US President Donald Trump (L) and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold up a proclamation on the occupied Golan Heights after a meeting in the White House March 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
World nations and prominent international rights groups have joined voices with Syria to condemn the recent decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Israel’s “sovereignty” over the Golan Heights, which have been under the regime’s occupation since 1967.
In another contentious policy shift, Trump on Monday signed a proclamation, recognizing the Tel Aviv-occupied side of Syria’s Golan Heights as part of the “Israeli territory.” In a tweet last week, he had declared his bid to do so and his recent move formalized Washington’s U-turn.
Syria: US decision not to change facts
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem swiftly condemned the move and said the recognition will not change the fact that the Golan Heights are part of Syrian soil.
“No matter how many years have passed, this will not change the fact that the Golan is an occupied Syrian territory,” he told Syrian state TV. “The US decision will affect nothing, except the isolation of the US.”
The top diplomat also vowed that the Syrian nation, army and UN resolutions will safeguard the Golan Heights.
Back in December 2018, the majority of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution urging the Israeli regime to withdraw from the entirety of the Syrian Golan Heights.
The resolution, titled The Syrian Golan, was adopted by a record vote of 99 in favor, 10 against and 66 abstentions. It declared that Israel’s controversial move to extend its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied mountainous plateau is null and void.
Later in the month, the General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution on the permanent sovereignty of Syria over natural resources of the Golan Heights.
The resolution reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan to sovereignty over its natural resources, including land, water and energy.
Arab League throws back behind Syria over Golan
A statement by the Arab League on Monday also censured Trump’s decision, saying, “It does not change the legal status of the area in any way.”
Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the 22-member organization “strongly supports Syria’s claim to the area, and that the League's stance has been endorsed by Arab nations.”
Russia: US proclamation to further destabilize region
Russia, in turn, warned against the repercussions of Trump’s decision, which it said “ignores all international procedures” and would “only aggravate the situation.”
“Unfortunately, this could drive a new wave of tensions in the Middle East region,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a radio broadcast on Monday
Lebanon: US cannot falsify history
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry also denounced Trump’s decision as a violation of all the rules of international law,” saying it “undermines any effort to reach a just peace.”
“The Golan Heights are Syrian Arab land, no decision can change this, and no country can revisit history by transferring ownership of land from one country to another,” it said.
The statement added that the Israeli regime’s attempts to grab more land by way of “force and aggression” would only isolate the entity.
Qatar, Palestinian factions support Syria
Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement against the US move, describing the Golan Heights as occupied Arab land.
Doha also urged Israel to comply with “the resolutions of international legitimacy to withdraw from all occupied Arab territories, including the Golan Heights.”
President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, also condemned the measure and said in a tweet, “There is no legitimacy that can override UN Security Council resolutions, the UN General Assembly or the Arab Peace Initiative.”
Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh, meanwhile, stressed that the Golan Heights would “forever remain an integral part of Syria.”
Iran, Turkey and the UN have also denounced the US president’s recognition of the Israeli regime's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Trump has violated international regulations through his decision.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the decision is unacceptable and that Turkey will take action against the decision, including at the United Nations.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for his part, insisted that “the status of Golan has not changed.”
Trump ‘driving wrecking ball through intl. law’
Trump’s measure has also sparked criticism from prominent rights groups Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Philippe Nassif, Middle East advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement, “The decision to recognize the Syrian Golan Heights as Israeli territory is irresponsible, reckless and yet another example of the Trump Administration violating international law and consensus by condoning Israel’s illegal annexation.”
“Such announcements—like the administration’s decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem (al-Quds) as the capital of Israel—will only make the human rights crisis in the region worse. Trump must understand that a just and sustainable peace requires full respect for international law and human rights,” he added.
The New York-based HRW also censured the Trump administration’s decision “to deny the reality of Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights” in a statement.
“President Trump appears poised to drive a wrecking ball through the international law that protects the population of the occupied Golan Heights,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If Trump follows through, it may embolden other occupying states to double down on their own land grabs, settlements, and plunder of resources.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia also joined other Arab states in condemning the US decision, saying Golan Heights were occupied Syrian Arab land in accordance with the relevant international resolutions.
In 1967, Israel waged a full-scale war against Arab territories, during which it occupied a large swathe of Golan and annexed it four years later, a move never recognized by the international community.
In 1973, another war broke out and a year later, a UN-brokered ceasefire came into force, according to which Tel Aviv and Damascus agreed to separate their troops and create a buffer zone in the Golan Heights.
Israel has over the past decades built dozens of settlements in the Golan Heights in defiance of international calls to stop its illegal construction activities.
Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.