The US has been isolated at the United Nations Security Council over President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights as other countries on the council oppose the move.
In a letter requesting Wednesday’s meeting, Syria described the US decision as a “flagrant violation” of council resolutions, while ally North Korea issued a statement backing “the struggle of the Syrian government and people for taking back the occupied Golan Heights”.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981, in a move the 15-member UN Security Council declared “null and void and without international legal effect”.
This week, Mr Trump signed a proclamation recognising the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, during a White House visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It represented a dramatic shift from decades of US policy.
British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told the UN security council that the US decision was in contravention of the 1981 resolution, while Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said Washington had violated UN resolutions and warned it could fuel instability in the Middle East.
The European members of the council – France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Poland – have also raised concerns about “broader consequences of recognising illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences”.
Germany’s UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen described the Syrian letter as “deeply cynical”.
“The Syrian government has, over the past eight years, grossly violated the international laws of war and is responsible for grave war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said, referring to the long-running Syrian civil war.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier on Wednesday that Washington’s decision would help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by removing uncertainty.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait criticised the US decision on the Golan Heights and said the territory was occupied Arab land. Iran echoed the comments.
The Security Council deployed a peacekeeping force in 1974 – known as the UN Disengagement Observer Force – to monitor a ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights. There are more than 880 UN troops on the ground.
US diplomat Rodney Hunter told the council that the US decision on the Golan Heights does not affect the truce or undermine the deployment of the peacekeeping mission.
“UNDOF continues to have a vital role to play in preserving stability between Israel and Syria, most importantly by ensuring that the Area of Separation is a buffer zone free from any military presence or activities,” he told the council.