Outraged countries mount pressure on US over Golan - GulfToday

Outraged countries mount pressure on US over Golan


Syrians wave national flags in the town of Quneitra in the Syrian Golan Heights. AFP

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council was due to hold an urgent public meeting on Wednesday at Syria’s request on the US decision to recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, diplomats said.

The council is not expected to release a statement on the US decision as this would require consensus among all 15 council members including the United States.

The council had been scheduled to meet behind closed doors to discuss the future of the peacekeeping force deployed on the Golan, known as UNDOF.

But France decided to turn that meeting into a public session, following Syria’s request.

Syria made the request in a letter sent on Tuesday to France, which holds the council presidency for the month of March, calling President Donald Trump›s decision a flagrant violation of UN resolutions.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry is calling on the UN human rights commissioner to denounce Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

The ministry›s statement on Wednesday said Trump’s decision this week is a blatant aggression against Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as a violation of the UN charter and international law.

It called on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to publicly say Trump›s decision endangers the rights of Syrians living in the occupied Golan.

Trump signed a proclamation on Monday in which the United States recognized Israel›s annexation of the strategic plateau, despite UN resolutions that call for Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan.

Three Security Council resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from the Golan, which it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981, in a move that was never recognised internationally.

At a meeting on the Middle East on Tuesday, several countries spoke out against the US decision and European countries voiced concern that the move could have broad consequences in the region.

Two of Washington’s closest allies − Britain and France − joined Belgium, Germany and Poland to declare that the European position had not changed and that the Golan remained Israeli-occupied Syrian territory, in line with international law enshrined in UN resolutions.

US Acting Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the meeting Washington had made the decision to stand up to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and Iran.

«To allow the Golan Heights to be controlled by the likes of the Syrian and Iranian regimes would turn a blind eye to the atrocities of the Assad regime and malign and destabilizing presence of Iran in the region,» said Cohen.

The European Union stressed on Wednesday that its members would not follow the United States in recognising the Golan Heights as Israel territory.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued a statement on behalf of member states reiterating their long-standing view.

The position of the European Union as regards the status of the Golan Heights has not changed, the statement said, ahead of a meeting of the UN Security Council on Washington’s decision.

In line with the international law and UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 497, the European Union does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

The head of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hizbollah, a key Syrian ally, called for resistance, resistance, and resistance against the US decision.

In an address aired on Lebanese television on Tuesday, Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah described Trump’s move as a crucial turning point in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Trump’s decision deals a knockout punch to the principle of land-for-peace that underpinned the Arab-Israeli peace process for decades, he said.

He called on the Arab League, which has suspended Syria’s membership over the bloody repression of protests leading to the war, to take action at a summit at the end of the month in Tunis.

The 21-member bloc should call for the withdrawal of the Arab peace initiative... from the table of negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he said.

The initiative, born in 2002 in Beirut, called for Israel to withdraw from all land it occupied in 1967, in exchange for normalisation between all Arab states and Israel.

Trump›s Golan decision sparked condemnation from the Arab League, as well as several regional states, including Lebanon, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation also criticised the move on Tuesday, calling it a flagrant violation of international law, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Hizbollah, the only side not to have disarmed after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, is credited with expelling Israel from the south of the country in 2000.