Moscow rejects notion of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan
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Moscow rejects notion of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan

Two days after Netanyahu said Putin understands the territory’s importance for Israel, Russian FM says any change of status would violate UN resolution

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a joint news conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Moscow, Russia, August 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a joint news conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Moscow, Russia, August 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday indicated that his country will not agree to any change of status for the Golan Heights, which Moscow, along with the large majority of the international community, considers occupied Syrian territory.

His comments followed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call on the international community Monday to recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin appreciates how important the strategic plateau is for Israel.

“The status of the Golan Heights is determined by the resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. “Changing this status bypassing the Security Council, from my perspective, would be a direct violation of these resolutions.”

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War, and formally annexed the territory in 1981. UN Security Council Resolution 497 of that year declared that Israel’s annexation of the “occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.” It passed unanimously.

During a visit to a synagogue at the Ein Keshatot archaeological site on the Golan Heights, Netanyahu vowed never to retreat from the area.

“Israel on the Golan Heights is a guarantee of stability in the surrounding area,” he said, noting Iran’s efforts to establish itself military close to Israel’s border with Syria.

“Israel on the Golan Heights is a solid reality based on ancient rights. Israel on the Golan Heights is a fact that the international community must recognize and as long as it is up to me the Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli sovereignty because otherwise we would have Iran and Hezbollah on the shores of the Sea of Galilee,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior IDF officers tour the northern border on the Golan Heights, on July 25, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Netanyahu said he would discuss Iran’s malign influence in the region during his upcoming meeting with the Russian president.

“I know that President Putin understands my commitment to the security of Israel and I know that he also understands the importance that I ascribe to the Golan Heights, that we all ascribe to the Golan Heights and to the heritage of Israel.”

Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights is widely accepted among Jewish Israelis. Opposition MK Yair Lapid, for instance, praised the prime minister for his comments, saying that he will fully back any government initiative to secure international support for Israel’s annexation of the territory.

Relations between Israel and Russia have been suffering recently due to the accidental Syrian downing of a Russian plane during an Israeli airstrike in Syria. Fifteen Russians were killed in the September 17 incident, which Moscow blamed on Israel, accusing its pilots of using the larger Russian plane as cover.

Israel disputes the Russian findings and says its jets were back in Israeli airspace when the plane was downed.

In response, Moscow announced new measures to protect its military in Syria, and sent Damascus S-300 air defense systems.

AFP contributed to this report.

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