Saudi Arabia on Tuesday rejected US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, condemning it as a violation of international law.
Trump, a key Saudi ally, broke with decades of US policy on Monday, signing a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the strategic territory it seized from Syria in the Six Day War of 1967.
“Saudi Arabia expresses its firm rejection and condemnation of the US administration’s declaration that it recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights,” said a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
The Golan remains “occupied Syrian Arab land” and its recognition as Israeli is a “violation of the UN Charter and international resolutions,” the statement said. “This will have negative effects on the Middle East peace process and security and stability in the region.”
Bahrain, another Gulf ally of the US, also criticized the Trump administration move on the Golan, saying that it “regrets the announcement by the United States of America.”
The development will “disrupt the efforts aimed at achieving a lasting and stable peace in the Middle East,” the Bahrain foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
Bahrain said it “affirms its firm position that the Golan Heights are Syrian Arab territories occupied by Israel in June 1967, as confirmed by UN Security Council resolutions” and “stresses the necessity of respecting the resolutions of international legitimacy.”
The statement called for “concerted efforts to end Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights and withdraw from all Arab territories occupied in 1967 in order to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region.”
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.
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.”
Netanyahu was visiting Washington for the AIPAC Conference, but cut short his visit and canceled his AIPAC speech scheduled for Tuesday after a rocket fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip hit a house north of Tel Aviv, wounding seven Israelis and raising fears of an escalation of hostilities. Netanyahu headed back to Israel after his meeting at the White House.
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.
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.
Trump in December 2017 also became the first US president to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated the embassy to the city months later.
US relations with Saudi Arabia have improved sharply since the 2017 inauguration of Trump, who has broken with his predecessor Barack Obama’s diplomatic opening to Saudi arch-foe Iran.
Trump refused to take a harsh stand against the kingdom for the 2018 murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.