Syria calls Trump comments about Golan heights ‘irresponsible’
Syria’s foreign ministry said Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is “irresponsible.”
The foreign ministry in Damascus said Trump’s announcement does not change “the fact that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian.”
The announcement “clearly shows the U.S. disdain to the international legitimacy and violates its resolutions, especially Security Council resolution 497,” the ministry said, adding that Trump’s statement also threatened “international peace and stability.”
The Golan Heights was captured by Israel in 1967’s Six-Day War and has been controlled by Israel since then.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Trump’s announcement has brought the region “to the brink of a new crisis and new tensions.”
“No country, no matter how important it is, can make such a decision,” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.
“Just like the the mentality which sheds blood in the mosques in New Zealand, Israel, which carries out systematic attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque for years, has no respect for beliefs and holy places or tolerance for living together,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting. “U.S. President Donald Trump’s unacceptable comments on the Golan Heights feed this warped mentality.”
Trump, in a Twitter comment, said the Golan Heights “is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
Pompeo Western Wall visit
Trump’s statement came while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Jerusalem, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official ever to visit the contested Western Wall in the holy city of Jerusalem accompanied by an Israeli leader.
The visit possibly signaled tacit U.S. recognition of Israeli control of the Jewish holy site, but it was quickly followed by Trump’s specific announcement on the Golan Heights.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to launch attacks on Israel from the Golan Heights, saying, “I think for this reason and many more, it is time that the international community recognizes Israel’s stay on the Golan, and the fact that the Golan will always remain part of the State of Israel.”
The Israeli leader praised Trump’s decision shortly after the president’s announcement.
“President Trump has just made history,” Netanyahu said after calling the U.S. leader. “The message President Trump has given the world is that the United States stands by Israel. We are deeply grateful for the U.S. support.”
Last week, the U.S. State Department, in its annual human rights report, dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.” Pompeo told reporters the change in terminology was not accidental but rather a reflection of the reality on the ground that the Jewish state controlled the territory.
In his visit to Jerusalem, Pompeo reaffirmed the long-standing U.S. friendship and support for Israel.
Pompeo accused Tehran of seeking the “annihilation and destruction” of Israel. “With such threats a daily reality of Israeli life, we maintain our unparalleled commitment to Israel’s security and firmly support your right to defend yourself,” he told Netanyahu.
The Golan Heights is about 1,800 square kilometers on the northeastern edge of Israel along its border with Syria, with about two-thirds of it controlled by Israel and the remainder under contested Syrian control. There have been numerous battles over the land during the eight-year Syrian Civil War.
Israel formally annexed the territory in 1981. But the international community has not recognized that annexation and considers the Golan Heights to be occupied territory.
Trump and other former U.S. leaders and top U.S. officials have visited the Western Wall privately in the past but not with an Israeli leader.
The Western Wall is located underneath the Old City’s Muslim Quarter in eastern Jerusalem, also captured by the Israelis in the Six-Day War.
But for decades, top U.S. officials have refrained from visiting the site with Israeli leaders to present a sense of impartiality in deciding eventual control of Jerusalem in the years of unresolved discussions over the creation of a Palestinian state.
The Palestinians have sought to claim east Jerusalem as its capital of an eventual independent state, but Israel also considers Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.
Pompeo’s visit to the site and the recognition of the Israeli ownership of the Golan Heights could further inflame tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians have already severed ties with the U.S. over Washington’s Jerusalem policies.
US embassy move
Trump, early in his administration, abandoned long-standing U.S. policy by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
When Trump did so, he said it did not determine the city’s eventual borders, but Palestinians viewed the U.S. action as tipping the scales toward Israeli control and cut ties with the U.S.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, criticized Pompeo’s visit to Israel absent any corresponding plans to meet with Palestinian officials. “While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve,” he said.
Pompeo said, “The Israelis and Palestinians live side by side. We need to help them figure out how to do that. It’s a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people.”
Trump is meeting with Netanyahu in Washington next week. Netanyahu’s government is headed to a tough April 9 re-election contest as the prime minister is embroiled in a corruption investigation and faces allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu has called the case against him a political “witch hunt.”
In comments to reporters en route to the Middle East, Pompeo dismissed the suggestion that his meeting with Netanyahu could be seen as the United States intruding in the Israeli election in support of the prime minister.