By Arab News
By Abdulaziz Alaquil
The international community has been responding critically to US President Donald Trump’s signed declaration on Monday recognizing the illegally occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
The unprecedented decision overturns decades of US policy, previously aligned with the UN, that had acknowledged the Golan Heights as Syrian territory.
Israel seized the area from Syria in 1967 and annexed it in 1981, in a move not recognized internationally.
UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 242 stresses the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”
UNSC Resolution 497 states: “The Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”
Trump’s decision was followed within hours by a wave of international uproar. “The American announcement does not change the legal status of the Golan in any way,” the Arab League said in a statement.
“The Golan Heights remains occupied Syrian territory. All this will be addressed at next week’s (Arab League) summit in Tunisia,” it added.
“Legitimization of the (Israeli) occupation is the new orientation of U.S. policy … which has become fully compatible with the positions and desires of Israel.”
The UN secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “It is clear that the status of the Golan has not changed. The UN’s policy on the Golan is reflected in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and that policy has not changed.”
Saudi Arabia firmly rejected Trump’s decision, and affirmed its position that the Golan Heights is occupied Syrian land in accordance with relevant international resolutions.
“It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region,” said Saudi Media Minister Turki Al-Shabanah.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement: “The US move will definitely undermine the possibility of reaching a just and comprehensive peace in the region.”
It added: “Regional stability and peace will never be possible as long as Israel continues its occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories.”
Oman’s Foreign Ministry said Trump’s decision “does not change the fact that the Golan Heights is Syrian land,” and “does not help to keep the region stable.”
The other Arab Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, all regional allies of Washington, also rejected the decision.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry called the decision a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” and a “humiliating blow to the international community.”
A Foreign Ministry spokesman added: “Trump does not have the right or the legal authority to legitimize the occupation.”
Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that thousands of people had gathered in the streets of several cities to protest Trump’s decision.
Syrian opposition chief Nasr Al-Hariri said Trump’s decision will “lead to more violence and instability, and it will have negative effects on efforts to engineer peace in the region.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “No one could imagine that a person in America comes and gives land of a nation to another occupying country, against international laws and conventions … Such action is unprecedented in the current century.”
An EU spokesperson said the bloc will not change its position regarding the Golan Heights in the wake of Trump’s decision.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said a change in the territory’s status would be a direct violation of UN decisions.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a private meeting in Moscow with Lebanese President Michel Aoun to discuss the US decision.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Such decisions undoubtedly have negative consequences from the point of view of a settlement in the Middle East and the general atmosphere of a political settlement in Syria.”
Lebanon said the move “violates all the rules of international law” and “undermines any effort to reach a just peace.”
The Foreign Ministry added: “The Golan Heights are Syrian Arab land, no decision can change this, and no country can revisit history by transferring ownership of land from one country to another.”
Aoun said: “The leader of a foreign state has no right to dispose of someone else’s territories this way.”
Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian said the decision “is against all international and UN laws.”
It “will have dangerous repercussions in the Middle East, and will affect security and stability in the region,” he added.
“What has been issued is not legitimate, but is a challenge and a flagrant attack on the rights of Arabs and Muslims.”
At a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkish President Erdogan said: “We cannot allow the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights.”
The Canadian government said in a statement: “In accordance with international law, Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over the Golan Heights. Canada’s long-standing position remains unchanged.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne tweeted: “The Golan Heights is a matter for Israel and Syria to determine through negotiations in the context of a comprehensive peace settlement. US policy positions are a matter for the US Government.”
France and Germany issued statements last week in an attempt to pre-empt Trump’s decision. “#GolanHeights: France does not recognize the Israeli annexation of 1981,” the Foreign Ministry tweeted.
“The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, an occupied territory, would be contrary to international law.”
A German government spokesman said: “If national borders should be changed it must be done through peaceful means between all those involved.”