Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday criticized the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights the previous day, saying the move was contrary to international law and reminiscent of the way colonial powers used to divide up countries.
“No one could imagine that a person in America comes and gives land of a nation to another occupying country, against international laws and conventions,” Rouhani said, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
US President Donald Trump broke with decades of US policy on Monday by signing a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, a strategic plateau it captured from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War.
“At a time when colonialism dominated, some colonial powers were doing these things and giving part of a country to another, but this is unprecedented in the current century,” Rouhani said during a meeting in Tehran with ministers and other senior officials to discuss flash flooding in some areas of his country that has killed at least 17 people.
His condemnation of Trump’s move followed critical statements from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which both said the development would threaten regional stability. Russia, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey have also denounced Trump’s proclamation.
Iran is a major ally of Syria and has been providing the Damascus regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad with military assistance in quashing a bloody civil war that has dragged on for over eight years.
None of Trump’s allies have followed his policy U-turn, which came in the form of a proclamation signed by the president Monday in the White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.
At the White House, Netanyahu thanked Trump for the “historic” recognition of the Golan Heights, and for his administration’s “incredible support” for Israel.
He recalled the long Jewish history of the mountainous plateau along the Syrian border, while stressing it was “invaluable” to Israel’s self-defense and saying the “historic decision has profound meaning for me and us and all Israelis.”
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981, a step tantamount to annexation.
The UN Security Council and successive US administrations have always regarded the Golan as occupied territory whose return would be negotiated as part of a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and Syria.
In the wake of Trump’s proclamation, fellow veto-wielding UN Security Council permanent members Britain and France have both said they will continue to consider the Golan Heights Israeli-occupied in line with council resolutions, as have China and Russia.
Earlier this month Israel said it had identified a Hezbollah terror cell operating on Syrian-held areas of the Golan Heights. The Iran-backed, Lebanon-based group has been trying to create a front on the Syrian Golan for years, but was unable to gain a sufficient foothold in the area until now. However, Syrian leader Assad’s conquest of the border area last year gave the regime-allied group an opportunity to again try to establish the necessary infrastructure with which it could threaten Israel near the border.