The criticism comes following US President Donald Trump’s decision to sign an executive order formally recognising Tel Aviv’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied during the Six-Day War of 1967 and formally annexed in 1981.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed criticism of President Trump’s Golan executive order, telling Arab leaders that “any resolution of the Syrian conflict must guarantee the unity, the territorial integrity of Syria, including the occupied Golan.”
Speaking at the opening of the 30th Arab League summit in Tunisia on Sunday, Guterres emphasized that as “millions of Syrians remain displaced and in need, and tens of thousands are arbitrarily detained…we must keep working to forge a political path to a sustainable peace in which all Syrians are heard, grievances are addressed, and needs are met.”
According to the official, the UN’s new Syrian envoy Geir O. Pedersen has outlined the priorities for a Syrian peace in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire, UN-supervised elections, and a Syrian-led political settlement in the war-torn country. The resolution was unanimously approved by the Security Council in December 2015 and was invoked by Russia, Iran and Turkey as the legal basis for the resolution of the Syrian conflict at the Astana peace talks in 2017.
Guterres’ remarks follow a formal request by the Syrian Foreign Ministry last week asking the secretary-general to “take an unambiguous official stance” regarding “the problem of the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights.” Damascus has also called on the Security Council to “take effective measures” to force Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders.
The UN chief’s sentiment was shared other senior officials speaking at the Summit. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini accused the US of “ignoring” UN Security Council resolutions and emphasized that the EU would “continue not to recognise Israeli sovereignty” over the Golan. Saudi King Salman, meanwhile, said that Riyadh “absolutely rejects” any measure denying Syrian sovereignty over the Golan. The Arab League unanimously denounced the US’s Golan move.
Trump signed an executive order formally recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights on March 25. Most of the strategically important hilly territory has been under Israel’s control since 1967 when it was seized by Tel Aviv during the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel formally annexed the territory in 1981, but the United Nations called the decision “null and void and without international legal effect.” Damascus has repeatedly called the Golan as an integral part of Syria and has said that Syrian sovereignty over the territory is not up for negotiation.