U.S. President Donald Trump's recent recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights continues to prompt criticism from Western countries on the grounds that the unilateral step may cause broader consequences, leaving the U.S. alone in its stance on the issue.
In the latest step, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini declared yesterday on behalf of the EU on the Golan Heights that "the position of the European Union as regards [to] the status of the Golan Heights has not changed," and underscored that, "In line with the international law and U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 497, the European Union does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights"
Trump signed a decree on Monday at the start of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the U.S. now recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory that Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war. The decree formalized Trump's statement on March 21 saying it was time for the U.S. "to fully recognize" Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The move appeared to give Netanyahu a boost ahead of the closely contested April 9 Israeli elections.
However, according to the U.N., the Golan's legal status will remain unchanged and still be considered "occupied territory" under international law.
Furthermore, the ambassadors from the five EU members of the U.N. Security Council, France, Germany, Britain, Poland and Belgium, issued a joint statement on Tuesday saying that they do not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights which Israel occupied in 1967 stressing that Trump's move raised "strong concerns."
In a joint statement they stressed, "Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law," and highlighted that any unilateral border changes are against the rules-based international order and the U.N. Charter.
The statement concluded that "We raise our strong concerns about broader consequences of recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences."
Since the decision first made by the U.S., Turkey has been one of the countries strongly criticizing the unilateral move. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated on Tuesday that, "According to the U.N. decision, that region is Syrian soil." He strongly rejected the U.S. attempt to consider a part of Syrian soil as Israel's territory.
Erdoğan also previously criticized the move, saying the decision has brought the region to the brink of a new crisis.
Speaking at the emergency Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in Istanbul Friday, Erdoğan said Turkey will never allow the legitimization of Israel's invasion of the Golan Heights.
In relation to the international criticism, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday he is "saddened, but not surprised" by the world's refusal to support the U.S. step. Despite the international concerns, Pompeo said that "We are simply recognizing facts on the ground," and added that "We hope those nations will join us to understand how important that is, how right it is."
Meanwhile, yesterday, the Syrian regime also called on the U.N. Security Council to hold an urgent meeting over the Golan Heights, according to some diplomatic sources.
During the Six-Day War, fought between June 5-10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt (known at the time as the United Arab Republic), Jordan and Syria, Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria. Israeli settlement in the Golan began soon after the war. Israel has been seeking to maintain its grip on the Golan Heights mainly because of its geostrategic significance due to water sources and its physical location.