European countries and members of the United Nations Security Council are speaking out against U.S. President Donald Trump's recent recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights, which Israel has illegally occupied for more than five decades.
"If anybody feels any temptation to follow this poor example, we would urge them to refrain from this aggressive revision of international law."
—Vladimir Safronkov, Russian diplomat
The European Union (EU) issued a statement on Wednesday reaffirming its position that the occupation is illegal.
That came as members of the Security Council denounced Trump's decision at a meeting convened at the request of Syria, which called the president's move a "flagrant violation" of U.N. resolutions.
Trump initially announced his decision to support Israeli sovereignty over the territory on Twitter last week—immediately provoking international condemnation. He finalized the new stance by signing an official proclamation on Monday, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House.
"This unilateral action does nothing to assist in finding a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East," South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Jerry Matjila said at the Security Council meeting on Wednesday, as Al Jazeera reported.
Vladimir Safronkov, the deputy ambassador from Russia—Syria's closest ally—added, "If anybody feels any temptation to follow this poor example, we would urge them to refrain from this aggressive revision of international law."
Representatives from Syria and Israel also joined the meeting. Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon—according to official meeting notes—declared, "Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is forever."
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967, during the Six-Day War, and officially annexed it 1981. That same year, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 497, which states that the "acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, the principles of international law, and relevant Security Council resolutions."
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Resolution 497 specifically calls the Israeli occupation of the territory "null and void and without international legal effect."
In the E.U.'s statement on Wednesday, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini cited the resolution, and confirmed that "the European Union does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights."
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz highlighted the significance of Mogherini's statement, given that it required a consensus among all 28 members of EU.
As the newspaper noted, "it reflects the official stance of countries such as Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Austria, Lithuania and Romania," nations that Netanyahu has "courted in recent years in order to break up the unanimity within the EU when it comes to Israel."
While a world leaders and human rights advocates continue to raise alarm about Israel's occupation of Golan Heights and other territories, Netanyahu—who will face a tough election on April 9—has celebrated the Trump administration's new position.
According to the New York Times, shortly before Netanyahu arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel on Tuesday—after cutting short his trip to the United States—the prime minister told reporters that the decision by Trump was enough for him.
"Everyone says you can't hold an occupied territory, but this proves you can," Netanyahu said. "If occupied in a defensive war, then it's ours."