Syria condemns Trump’s stance on Golan Heights sovereignty

Syria has condemned US President Donald Trump’s statement that it is time to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, while its close military ally, Russia said changing the status of the territory would violate UN agreements.

Syrian state news agency cited a foreign ministry source on Friday as saying Trump’s statement showed “the blind bias of the United States” towards Israel.

It did not change “the reality that the Golan was and will remain Syrian, Arab,” the source said.

“The Syrian nation is more determined to liberate this precious piece of Syrian national land through all available means,” the source told Reuters, adding that Trump’s statement was “irresponsible” and showed “contempt” for international law.

Another close Syrian ally, Iran, also upbraided Trump for the comment he made on Thursday, which marks a dramatic shift in US policy over the status of a disputed area that was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981 – a move not recognised internationally.

Last week, the US dropped “Israeli-occupied” designation in its annual human rights report, though the State Department insisted the wording change did not mean a policy change.

Iran said the statement was “unacceptable”. “This illegal and unacceptable recognition does not change the fact that it belongs to Syria,” an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman was cited as saying by state TV.

Turkey, which is heavily involved in the eight-year-old Syrian conflict, said that Trump’s statement has brought the region to the edge of a new crisis.

“We cannot allow the legitimisation of the occupation of the Golan Heights,” President Tayyip Erdogan, who is opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said in a speech at a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul.

Both Iran and Russia have deployed forces into Syria in support of Assad during the Syrian conflict, with Iran sending both its own forces and also backing regional Shia militias such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah that have helped Damascus.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pressed the United States to recognise its claim and raised that possibility in his first White House meeting with Trump in February 2017.

Trump’s statement has given a boost to Netanyahu in the middle of his re-election campaign. Israel will vote on April 9.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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