Top US diplomat saddened by global Golan reactions

WASHINGTON (AA): U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday he is “saddened, but not surprised” by the world’s refusal to follow Washington’s lead in recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

“We are simply recognizing facts on the ground,” Pompeo said one day after U.S. Presidential Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Trump’s decision was roundly rejected by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Turkey, Canada, Russia, most Arab nations, as well as the European Union.

“We hope those nations will join us to understand how important that is, how right it is,” Pompeo said of the unilateral U.S. decision.

Israel has long lobbied Washington to recognize its claim over the Golan, but all past administrations refused to heed the calls. The annexation of territory seized in conflicts is illegal under international law.

The Trump administration has repeatedly cited the illegality of such actions in the past, particularly in refuting Russia’s claim to the Crimean Peninsula which it seized from the Ukraine in 2014, and annexed that year following a referendum rejected by the international community.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel occupies roughly two-thirds of the wider Golan Heights as a de facto result of the conflict. It moved to formally annex the territory in 1981 — an action unanimously rejected at the time by the UN Security Council, which called on Israel to rescind its decision.

The U.S. as a permanent member of the council voted at the time in favor of the resolution.

Pompeo told reporters at the State Department that Washington’s Golan declaration is “fundamentally the right decision.”

“Israel was fighting a defensive battle to save its nation,” Pompeo said. “It cannot be the case that a UN resolution is a suicide pact. It simply can’t be, and that’s the reality that President Trump recognized.”