Protesters across war-torn Syrian denounce US decision on Golan Heights as Hezbollah chief calls for ‘resistance’.
President Donald Trump signed a proclamation on Monday in which the United States recognised Israel’s annexation of the strategic plateau, despite UN resolutions recognising the Golan as Israeli-occupied territory.
Israel occupied the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and continues to occupy roughly two-thirds of the wider Golan Heights region as a direct result of the conflict.
In 1981, Israel formally annexed the territory, in a move unanimously rejected at the time by the UN Security Council.
In a letter seen by AFP, the Syrian mission to the United Nations asked the council presidency, held by France, to schedule an urgent meeting to “discuss the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan and the recent flagrant violation of the relevant Security Council’s resolution by a permanent member-state.”
The French presidency did not immediately schedule the meeting and diplomats said there would be a discussion at the council about the request.
The council is scheduled to discuss the latest crisis on Wednesday during a meeting on renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force deployed between Israel and Syria in the Golan, known as UNDOF.
‘Crucial turning point’
The head of the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, a key Syrian ally, called for resistance against the US decision.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said the only option left to Syrians to take back their land – and for Palestinians to achieve their “legitimate rights” – was “resistance, resistance, and resistance”.
He 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 what is called the peace process in the region, which is built on (the concept of) land in exchange for peace”, he said in a televised address.
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.
Five European countries with seats on the council earlier rejected Trump’s decision and voiced concern that the US move would have broad consequences in the Middle East.
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 a council meeting on the Middle East that 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 destabilising presence of Iran in the region,” said Cohen.
There “can be no peace agreement that does not satisfactorily address Israel’s security needs in the Golan Heights,” he added.
China and Russia spoke out against the US decision during the council meeting, as did Indonesia and South Africa, two countries that strongly support the Palestinians, along with Kuwait, a US ally in the region.