Israel occupied about 1,200 square km of Syria’s Golan Heights in 1967 after launching a surprise air attack against Damascus’s Egyptian allies and sparking the Six-Day War in June of that year. In 1981, Tel Aviv formally annexed the territory. The UN condemned that decision as “null and void and without international legal effect.”
The 120 member-strong Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has issued a political declaration whose points include the demand that Israel withdraw from occupied Syrian territories in the Golan.
In a statement published Friday after a virtual ministerial meeting, the NAM declared that its members “condemn all measures taking by Israel, the Occupying power, to alter the legal, physical and demographic status of the Occupied Syrian Golan, and demand once again that Israel should abide by the United Nations Security council resolution 497 (1981), and to withdraw fully from the Occupied Syrian Golan to the borders of 4 June 1967, in the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).”
In addition, the NAM reiterated that “a just, lasting solution to the question of Palestine in all its aspects must remain a priority on the Movement’s agenda and remains also a permanent responsibility of the United Nations until it is satisfactorily resolved in all aspects in accordance with international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions.”
The group of nations also reaffirmed the need to “respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, the sovereign equality, political independence and inviolability of international borders of other states,” and to refrain from intervention in other countries’ internal affairs.
Established in 1961 at the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, the NAM was envisioned as an alternative to the idea of a bipolar world order of two competing military blocs. Today, the NAM consists of 120 member nations, with most countries in the Middle East and Africa, plus much of Latin America and Asia and several post-Soviet republics among its members. China, Mexico, Brazil and over a dozen other countries serve as observers.
The Trump administration formally recognized Israeli ‘sovereignty’ over the Golan in March 2019. Dozens of countries, including the US’s European allies, condemned the decision. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called it a “conscious, deliberate demonstration of lawlessness.”
Earlier this summer, on the occasion of President Trump’s birthday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced “practical steps” to create a so-called ‘Trump Heights’ settlement in the Golan in honour of the president’s recognition of Israeli control over the territory. The Israeli government plans to allocate some $2.3 million for construction of the settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the inauguration of a new settlement named after President Donald Trump in Golan Heights, Sunday, June 16, 2019.
Israel occupied the Golan Heights in June 1967 after launching a preemptive air strike against Egyptian airfields and thereby kicking off the Six-Day War against a coalition of Arab states including Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In 1981, Tel Aviv formally annexed the territory, but the decision was not recognized by the Security Council, including the US, despite its alliance with Israel. In December 1981, the Security Council unanimously declared that Israel’s move was “null and void.” Behind the scenes however, the Reagan administration did not pressure Israel to rescind its decision, and in January 1982 Washington and its allies vetoed a second resolution calling on the international community to take action to put pressure Israel.
Damascus has repeatedly stressed that it would never give up its sovereignty over the Golan, and has warned that it has the right under international law to regain its territories using any means necessary.
Along with the Golan Heights, Israel continues to occupy a 22 square km strip of Lebanese territory known as Shebaa Farms, as well as the internationally recognized Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.