Outrage across Middle East as Trump endorses Israel’s claim on Golan Heights

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DAMASCUS: Syria, its allies, and fellow states in the region on Friday condemned US President Donald Trump’s pledge to recognise Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights slamming the move as a violation of international law.

Trump said it was time for Washington to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic territory, which it seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed in a move never recognised internationally. His abrupt tweet triggered delight in Israel, but outrage from other countries in the region as well as powerhouses such as Russia and Turkey. Moscow warned the policy U-turn could spark new conflicts.

“Such appeals can considerably destabilise an already tense situation in the Middle East,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“Hopefully it will remain (just) a call.” Any such move would break with UN Security Council resolutions and with more than half a century of US foreign policy, which treated the Golan as occupied territory whose future would be negotiated in talks with Syria on a comprehensive peace.

The territory’s return has always been a key Syrian national demand, championed by government and rebels alike throughout the bloody civil war that has ripped the country apart since 2011.

In an angry retort, the Syrian government said Trump’s comments disregarded international law.

“The American position towards Syria’s occupied Golan Heights clearly reflects the United States’ contempt for international legitimacy and its flagrant violation of international law,” a foreign ministry source told the official SANA news agency.

Trump’s comments showed the extent of his administration’s “blind bias” towards Israel. “The Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian,” the source said. The foreign ministry sent a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, urging him to reiterate the UN’s rejection of Israeli claims over the Golan, SANA said.

Turkey, which hosted the last indirect peace talks between Israel and the Syrian government in 2008 but has backed Syrian rebels, said the change risked plunging the region into a “new crisis”.

“We will never allow the occupation of Golan Heights to be made legitimate,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Moha­mmad Javad Zarif tweeted he was “shocked by @realDonaldTrump continuing to try to give what is not his to racist Israel.”


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