WASHINGTON (Rahnuma) : U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights on Monday.
Trump signed a presidential proclamation sealing the move while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, saying the contested territory is “a potential launching ground for attacks against Israel.”
“Any possible future peace agreement must account for Israel’s need to defend itself from Syria, Iran and other regional threats,” he said.
Momentum has been building in Washington for the U.S. to recognize Israel’s claim to the Syrian territory, and the State Department earlier this month prompted questions about the matter when it changed its terminology for the first time on the Golan Heights, referring to it as “Israeli-controlled” instead of its former designation of “Israeli-occupied.”
Israel has long lobbied the U.S. to recognize its claim over the Golan, but all past administrations refused to heed the calls.
Netanyahu, who is facing tough parliamentary elections in early April, profusely thanked Trump for signing the proclamation, calling it a “historic day” that caps Israel’s victories in the 1967 Six Day and 1973 Yom Kippur wars.
“While Israel won those two wars, we would have to wait nearly half a century until this moment here in this room to translate our military victory into a diplomatic victory,” Netanyahu said.
Israel occupies roughly two-thirds of the wider Golan Heights as a result of the 1967 conflict. It moved to formally annex the territory in 1981 — an action unanimously rejected at the time by the UN Security Council.
Security Council Resolution 497 says 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”.
It further demanded Israel rescind its decision.
The UN said the status of the Golan Heights remains unchanged, and is occupied under international law, following Trump’s declaration.
“The UN’s policy on Golan is reflected in the relevant UN resolutions of the Security Council,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
*Betul Yuruk contributed to the story from the United Nations