BEIRUT: The Syrian government vowed to take back the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as its allies and enemies alike condemned US President Donald Trump yesterday for moving to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the territory seized in war.
Trump’s statement on Thursday marked a dramatic shift in US policy over the status of a disputed area that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East conflict and annexed in 1981 – a move not recognised internationally.
Trump’s declaration is the latest US step to fuel anger in the region, both in states that are hostile to Israel and others that have relations with it and are allied to the US.
It follows the US recognition in December 2017 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – a decision that also stirred international criticism as the city’s disputed status remains at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Russia, an ally of President Bashar Al Assad with forces in Syria, said Trump’s comments risked seriously destabilising the region, and it voiced hope the statement was just declaratory.
Iran, Assad’s main regional ally and which also has forces in Syria, condemned the statement as illegal and unacceptable.
“The personal decisions of Trump...will lead to crisis in the region,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said.
Turkey, a US ally and an adversary of Damascus, also said the move had brought the Middle East to the edge of a new crisis and the legitimisation of the occupation of the Golan Heights could not be allowed.
The Syrian government said the Golan was an “indivisible” part of Syrian territory and recovering it “via all means guaranteed by international law is still a priority”.
It said the US with its “stupidity and arrogance” had no right to decide the fate of the area and any move to recognise Israeli sovereignty over it was “an illegal action with no impact”.
The Arab League said Trump’s comments were “completely outside international law”. The GCC said Trump’s statement would not change the internationally recognised fact that the “Golan heights are Syrian lands forcefully occupied by Israel”.