"Regarding the occupied Arab territories, including the Golan Heights, there are very clear guidelines set by United Nations Security Council 242 and 338 resolutions," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang recalled, adding that all parties should respect the international law with the aim of "resolving territorial disputes through negotiation for a deep, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."
Trump's decision contradicts with U.N. Security Council resolution 242, which urged Israel to withdraw from the territories it had occupied after the 1967 war. His decision also goes against the 1974 Israel-Syria ceasefire agreement, which establishes a demilitarized zone between the two countries.
The Golan Heights are a plateau which extends between the northeastern border of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Part of this region remains under Israeli occupation; another one has been controlled by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) since 1974; and the rest of the area remains under the sovereignty of Syria.
Disregarding multilateral agreements, however, President Trump tweeted Thursday that “after 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability.”
The U.S. government announcement, which came 20 days before Trump's ally right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to run for reelections, has faced many criticisms not only because it violates the norms of international law but also because it could fuel new episodes of conflict in the region.
“That the U.S. is the only country in the world that is contemplating recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over militarily conquered territory –be it the Golan Heights or the West Bank and East Jerusalem– is an indication of further isolation from the norms of interactive foreign policy,” Imad K. Harb, the Research Director of the Arab Center Washington DC (ACW) said, adding that “by siding with Israel and its supporters on the Golan issue... the U.S. would be allowing the exceptionalism that is embodied in its policy toward Israel to become the norm in dealing with all other consequential issues around the world.”
The Syrian Foreign Ministry called Trump's statements "irresponsible" and said they reaffirm the U.S. "unlimited support" for Israel's "aggressive behavior."
"The U.S., with its cowardly policies which are driven by arrogance and a mentality of hegemony, has become... a threat to international peace and stability," Syria's Foreign Ministry said, stressing that the Syrians are "more determined" to liberate the occupied Golan "by all means."
Russia also criticized Trump's intention of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and warned that his declaration could destabilize the region.
"Such calls may considerably destabilize the already strained situation in the Middle East," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS, explaining that "the idea as such by no means works for the tasks and goals of the Middle East settlement. It’s the other way round."
The recent controversy over the occupied territory seems to follow the U.S. "human rights report" in which the Trump administration changed the usual State Department description of the Golan heights from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled.” The move came amid intensified efforts by Israel to win U.S. recognition of its claim to sovereignty over the strategic regions.