UN protests Israeli settlements in Golan

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously voiced alarm over Israeli statements about the Golan Heights on Syria’s border with Israel, a declaration that elicited a sharp response from Israel.

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Earlier this month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would never relinquish the Golan Heights, in a signal to Russia and the United States that the strategic plateau should be excluded from any deal on Syria’s future.

“Council members expressed their deep concern over recent Israeli statements about the Golan, and stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged,” China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi, president of the 15-nation Security Council this month, told reporters after a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.

He added that council resolution 497 of 1981 made clear that Israel’s decision at the time to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the Golan was “null and void and without international legal effect.”

Council statements are adopted by consensus, which means all its members, including Israel’s ally the United States, backed it.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon issued a statement rejecting the council complaint.

“Holding a meeting on this topic completely ignores the reality in the Middle East,” he said.

“While thousands of people are being massacred in Syria, and millions of citizens have become refugees, the Security Council has chosen to focus on Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East.”

“It’s unfortunate that interested parties are attempting to use the council for unfair criticism of Israel,” he added.

Netanyahu’s April 17 declaration came on the occasion of the first Israeli cabinet session on the Golan since the area was captured from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed in 1981.

Israel’s annexation of the Golan has not won international recognition.

Past US-backed Israeli-Syrian peace efforts were predicated on a return of the Golan, where some 23,000 Israelis now live alongside roughly the same number of Druse Arabs loyal to Damascus.