UNITED NATIONS -- The United States came under sharp criticism from the 14 other Security Council nations Wednesday for its decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights in violation of council resolutions.
Speaker after speaker at the open meeting supported Syria's sovereignty over the strategic plateau and opposed Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights and President Donald Trump's proclamation earlier this week.
As South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Jerry Matjila said, "this unilateral action does nothing to assist in finding a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East."
He and others pointed to resolutions calling for Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights, including a December 1981 Security Council resolution that called Israel's annexation of the strategic area "null and void and without international legal effect."
Russia, Syria's closest ally, urged governments to continue to view the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied territory.
"If anybody feels any temptation to follow this poor example, we would urge them to refrain from this aggressive revision of international law," Russia's deputy ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, said.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981. A 1974 cease-fire agreement that officially ended the 1973 Middle East war led to the deployment of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan Heights.
Trump's proclamation that the Golan Heights is part of Israel raised questions about the future of the peacekeeping force after its mandate expires on June 30.
U.S. political coordinator Rodney Hunter told the council the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force has "a vital role to play in preserving stability between Israel and Syria," an assurance that the Trump administration's recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau won't affect its operation.
He said the force's mandate to ensure that the area of separation between Syria and Israel "is a buffer zone free from any military presence or activities" is of "critical strategic and security importance" to Israel and "can contribute to the stability of the entire Middle East."
Hunter said U.S. recognition that the Golan Heights are part of Israel doesn't affect the 1974 cease-fire agreement, "nor do we believe that it undermines [the force's] mandate in any way."
The U.S. called on Russia "to compel the Syrian forces to uphold their commitment" to the cease-fire agreement "and immediately withdraw from the area of separation," Hunter said.
Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo expressed hope that "the recent developments will not be used as an excuse by anyone to pursue actions that could undermine the relative stability of the situation on Golan and beyond."
A Section on 03/28/2019
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