Syria asks Security Council to uphold resolutions on Golan

As Trump moves to recognize Israeli sovereignty, Damascus calls for ‘practical measures’ by UN body to maintain status quo governing strategic plateau

An Israeli soldier opens the border gates as a UN vehicle enters Syria at the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights, Monday, October 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
An Israeli soldier opens the border gates as a UN vehicle enters Syria at the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights, Monday, October 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Syria on Friday asked the UN Security Council to uphold resolutions declaring that Israel must withdraw from the Golan Heights, after President Donald Trump said the United States would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari urged the council to “take practical measures to ensure that the council is fulfilling … its mandate in the implementation of its resolutions” concerning the Golan, in a letter seen by AFP.

The council is scheduled to discuss the Golan 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.

Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan.

In the letter, the Syrian ambassador also asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to reaffirm the UN position on Israeli control of the Golan, which Israel captured during the Six Day War.

Asked about Trump’s stance, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said UN policy was based on council resolutions and those of the General Assembly on the status of the Golan.

Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari addresses the United Nations Security Council, at UN headquarters, Tuesday, January 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“The resolutions are of course unchanged,” said Haq. “Our policies have not changed in that regard.”

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war and extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981, a step tantamount to annexation. But the United States and the international community have long considered it Syrian territory under Israeli occupation. The plateau lies along a strategic area on the border between Israel and Syria.

The US backed Resolution 242 adopted in 1967, which calls on Israel to withdraw from territories it occupied in the Six-Day war and refers to the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”

The council adopted another resolution in 1973 that reaffirmed the demand for a withdrawal, and in 1981 backed a separate measure that rejected Israel’s annexation of the Golan.

In addition to Syria, Trump’s announcement was condemned strongly by its allies Russia and Iran, as well as by the president of Turkey.

Russia, which has long been a key backer of Syria and is fighting alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, condemned Trump’s declaration as a violation of UN decisions.

US Senator Lindsey Graham, left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, on a tour of the Golan Heights, March 11, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Iran’s foreign ministry called the move “illegal and unacceptable,” while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the US announcement “brings the region to the edge of a new crisis.”

The European Union on Friday stressed that it would not change its position on the Golan and does not consider it a part of Israeli territory.

Israeli leaders were exuberant over the announcement, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying “the message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”

The move was seen as a potential major boon to the prime minister less than three weeks before a general election. And a signing ceremony with Trump in the White House would be an even greater boost for Netanyahu.

According to reports on Channel 13 and 13 on Friday, Trump will sign an official declaration recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan when Netanyahu visits the White House next week.

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