Washington: U.S. President Donald Trump has recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, sparking anger from Syria, as the UN says its position has not changed.
During a White House visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Trump signed a proclamation officially granting US recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, in a dramatic shift from decades of US policy.
Israel seized the strategic land from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
The recognition, which Mr Trump had announced in a tweet last Thursday, appeared to be the most overt gesture by the Republican President to help Mr Netanyahu, who had been pressing Mr Trump for the move.
Earlier on Monday, the Israeli Prime Minister, who faces an election on April 9, cut short his US visit after a rocket fired from Gaza injured seven people near Tel Aviv. He arrived in Washington on Sunday, intending to make a four-day trip.
Signing the document as Mr Netanyahu looked over his shoulder, Mr Trump said: “This was a long time in the making.”
He handed the pen that he used for his signature to Mr Netanyahu, and said: “Give this to the people of Israel.”
Mr Netanyahu welcomed Mr Trump’s move and said Israel had never had a better friend. He harked back to two previous Middle Eastern wars as the reason why Israel needed to hang on to the Golan.
“Just as Israel stood tall in 1967, just as it stood tall in 1973, Israel stands tall today. We hold the high ground and we should never give it up,” he said.
Syria called the decision a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, saying it had a right to reclaim the Golan Heights.
“The liberation of the Golan by all available means and its return to the Syrian motherland is an inalienable right,” Syria’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.
“The decision … makes the United States the main enemy of the Arabs.”
The statement said nothing could change the “eternal historical fact that the Golan was and will remain Syrian Arab”.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was “clear that the status of Golan has not changed”, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.
“The UN’s policy on Golan is reflected in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and that policy has not changed,” Mr Dujarric said.
A UN Security Council resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-member body in 1981 declared that Israel’s “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect”. It also demanded Israel rescind its decision.
Turkey said the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights was unacceptable. It would take action against the decision, including at the UN, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.