The Syrian representative to the UN said Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights leaves only one possible solution to the situation – "the use of force."
The United Nations Security Council convened for a public session Wednesday at 11 P.M. Israel time to discuss the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, following a request by the Syrian mission with France's support.
The United States defended its decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty, saying that Trump's declaration does not violate the separation agreement of 1974, nor does it interfere with the activities of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force.
The members of the Security Council who opened the debate reiterated the UN position that the Golan Heights is occupied territory and voiced hope that the recent proclamation in the U.S. would not lead to an escalation in the area.
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The Syrian representative condemned Trump's declaration, calling it a "slap in the face to the entire world," and "unilateral behavior, which has no legal or political value."
He said that Trump's behavior contradicts the commitments of previous U.S. presidents and, in his opinion, the decision was made to win Trump the support of the Jewish-American lobby. "Give Israel North Carolina, why not. It's wonderful land. Give them some land from your states if you really want to support Israel," he said.
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Israel's UN envoy, Danny Danon, thanked the United States for its willingness to "accept the reality on the ground... that the Golan Heights is Israel's sovereign land."
Germany's ambassador to the UN Christoph Heusgen accused Syria of hypocrisy but reiterated that security concerns from Israel "do not justify an annexation" of the region. On Syria, he said its request for a meeting to discuss what it called a "flagrant violation" of a UN Security Council resolution is "profoundly cynical" coming from a country that refuses to acknowledge its own violations of international law.
"It is profoundly cynical to have a regime known for atrocious crimes ... come to the UN Security Council and criticize others for violating international law," Heusgen said.
Rodney Hunter, the political coordinator of the U.S. mission to the UN, voiced concern about the Syrian military presence in the cease-fire zone, saying that it is in violation of the UNDOF mandate and in violation of the separation agreement of 1947.
"The United States and this Council cannot accept Syria’s efforts to establish its presence in the Area of Separation as a new norm," he said. The U.S. called upon Russia "to use its influence with the Assad regime to compel the Syrian forces to... immediately withdraw from the area of separation."
Hunter also said the U.S. is concerned about the presence of Hezbollah in the separation area. "There is no chance of peace for Syria and Israel if Hezbollah is present in the area of separation," he said.
The Russian representative expressed a fear that this proclamation will disturb UN peacekeeping efforts that maintain the stability of the region. The Russian representative said that the U.S. proclamation of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights is a part of a "bleak picture of unilateral steps taken by the United States over recent times," and characterized it as a continuation of the U.S. decision to move their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The representative of the United Kingdom affirmed Israel's right to defend itself and called upon Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran and Hezbollah to refrain from actions that endanger civilians and destabilize the security of the area. The U.K. representative also commended American peace efforts, and said that the U.K. supports a two-state solution.
The representative from France said that the Golan is occupied territory and that the council cannot recognize a one-sided unilateral decision that violates international law. The Belgian representative said that the U.S. declaration is in violation of international law and UN resolutions and has wide consequences for the region. The Polish representative said that Syrian military activity in the area of separation between Israel and Syria is worrying.
Israel's UN envoy, Danny Danon, said that for 19 years, "Syria has used the Golan as a forward post against the State of Israel and today it is Iran who wants to station its soldiers on the edge of the Sea of Galilee."
Danon said Israel would not allow this reality to come to pass, "and it is time the international community recognizes the Golan will remain under Israeli sovereignty forever. The United States and Israel will stand as one against the hypocrisy and lies."
On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump met with Netanyahu in Washington to sign a presidential proclamation officially recognizing the area as Israeli territory, formalizing the move announced with his tweet.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini released a statement earlier Wednesday on behalf of all 28 union states, saying the EU "does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights." Meanwhile, the French mission to the UN said it intended to push for the Security Council to convene for a public session on the matter.
Arab Gulf states – including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait – also denounced the decision. In addition, thousands of Syrians gathered Tuesday in different cities to protest the announcement.
In the Golan Heights, Druze leaders called Trump's announcement "a delusional declaration of a delusional man. The decision changes nothing in terms of the status of the Golan according to international law or for the Druze residents and was clearly meant to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu politically."
DPA contributed to this report