Golan Heights

Arab leaders strongly rejected the U.S. decision to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory at the 30th Arab League (AL) summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on Sunday.

They said in a statement that Arab states would submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council and seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice “on the illegality and invalidity of the American recognition,” according to a Reuters report. The recent move by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian territory of Golan Heights is top of this year’s AL summit agenda. The Arab leaders showed their unity to reject the U.S. move, despite their rifts over whether to restore Syria’s AL membership. The leaders affirmed that the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau once used to shell northern Israel, is “Syria’s occupied territory.”

Trump signed a proclamation on March 25 recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, marking a major shift in U.S. policy in the Middle East. The proclamation said that it is “appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights” because of the security need of Israel. Netanyahu welcomed Trump’s move and called the recognition “historic.” “In a day of history, we have never had a greater friend than President Trump,” he said. In response, Syria’s Foreign Ministry called the U.S. move a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria, state news agency SANA reported. Trump’s decision drew broad opposition from the international community.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “clear that the status of Golan has not changed.” Speaking at the AL summit in Tunis, EU’s High Representative for Foreign affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said the U.S. decision is completely opposed to UN Security Council resolutions that consider the Golan Heights an Israeli-occupied Syrian territory. “The EU is working to achieve a political solution to the crisis in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions,” she said, adding that a political solution would be the only peaceful way to end the conflict in Syria and ensure the interests of all parties. Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said in a statement that Trump’s proclamation is void and a blatant violation of the international law.

In his phone conversation with U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that the recognition of Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights would lead to the violation of international law, impede the settlement of the Syrian crisis, and aggravate the situation throughout the Middle East.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Monday tweeted that the U.S. recognition would never legitimize Israeli occupation. On the contrary, the move would further increase tension in the region by preventing peace efforts in the Middle East. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the third Middle East war in 1967 and annexed it in the 1980s, but the international community never recognized the move.

UN Security Council Resolution 497, adopted unanimously in December 1981, decided that 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.”

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