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France says Israeli sovereignty over Golan breaks international law

Jack Guez, AFP | A file photo taken on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on July 18, 2013 shows a United Nations peacekeeper sitting in a watchtower in the demilitarised zone.

France does not recognise the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and its recognition – as called for by US President Donald Trump – is contrary to international law, its foreign ministry said on Friday.

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Trump provocatively tweeted on Thursday that Washington should recognise Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. However, international reaction was overwhelmingly critical.

“The Golan is a territory occupied by Israel since 1967. France does not recognise the Israeli annexation of 1981,” the French ministry said in a daily briefing, adding that UN Security Council resolutions had recognised the annexation as null and void.

“The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, occupied territory, would be contrary to international law, in particular the obligation for states not to recognise an illegal situation,” the ministry also said.

The Gulf Cooperation Council regional group of six Arab monarchies also expressed regret on Friday at Trump’s call to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Trump’s statement “will not change the reality that (...) the Arab Golan Heights is Syrian land occupied by Israel by military force in 1967", said Abdul Latif Al Zayani, the GCC secretary general. “The statements by the American president undermine the chances of achieving a just and comprehensive peace.”

Russian reproach

Russia, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad with forces in Syria, said Trump’s comments risked seriously destabilising the region, and it voiced hope the statement was just declaratory.

Iran, Assad’s main regional ally and which also has forces in Syria, condemned the statement as illegal and unacceptable.

Turkey, a US-allied state and an adversary of Damascus, said the statement had brought the Middle East to the edge of a new crisis and the legitimisation of the occupation of the Golan Heights could not be allowed.

The German government were also quick to respond. A spokeswoman confirmed that they respected that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory occupied by Israel.

“If national borders should be changed it must be done through peaceful means between all those involved,” spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. “The government rejects unilateral steps.”

Turkish President Erdogan said that Trump’s statement brought the region to the edge of a new crisis. In a speech at a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Friday, Erdogan said: “We cannot allow the legitimisation of the occupation of the Golan Heights."

In a tweet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for his gesture “at a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel”. It could help Netanyahu in the midst of a tough re-election battle, analysts said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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