Syria calls for return of occupied Golan Heights at UNGA

Israel seized the territory from Syria in 1967 and later annexed it

Soldiers in Israel's artillery unit take part in a drill at the military base of Har Dov in the annexed Golan Heights. AFP
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Syria on Tuesday reaffirmed its right to completely regain control of the occupied Golan Heights.

“No matter how long it takes, [reclaiming the Golan Heights] is an inalienable right, that is not subject to compromise or pressure,” Syria’s UN ambassador Bassam Sabbagh told the UN General Assembly on the final day of the high-profile event in New York.

Israel seized the Golan Heights during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and later annexed it. The US, under then-president Donald Trump, recognised Israel’s full sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 2019, despite international law underpinned by UN resolutions.

Mr Sabbagh, who is departing from his UN role to assume the position of Syria's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, alleged that Israel is in breach of the UN Charter and international humanitarian law due to its occupation of Arab territories.

He highlighted Israel's efforts to “forcefully” impose Israeli citizenship on Golan Heights inhabitants and its exploitation of the region's natural resources, warning that Israeli authorities will be held accountable for “all their crimes with no impunity”.

Mr Sabbagh also accused the US and Turkey of violating Syria's sovereignty by insisting on the “continued illegal military presence on Syrian lands and supporting separatist militias and terrorist organisations”.

He blamed Washington for the plundering of Syria’s oil and gas sector and noted that total losses in the Syrian oil sector amounted to $115 billion.

Despite the exemption of humanitarian aid by UN Security Council Resolution 2664, which was passed in December last year, Mr Sabbagh called for the lifting of sanctions on Syria, arguing they are hindering the delivery of crucial aid.

He reiterated Damascus’s call for increased funding via international donors to reduce “dependency on life saving humanitarian aid and … help provide conditions for a dignified and voluntary return of displaced persons and refugees”.

According to the UN, more than 14 million Syrians have fled their homes throughout the civil war – which began in 2011 – predominantly to neighbouring states Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

Many have also fled to European countries, such as Germany and Denmark.

Last week, Jordan's King Abdullah II told the UN General Assembly that his country has exceeded its capacity to accommodate and provide for nearly 1.4 million Syrian refugees, almost half of whom are under the age of 18.

“Jordan's capacity to deliver necessary services to refugees has surpassed its limits,” he said. “Syrian refugees' future is in their country, not in host countries.”

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati also called for a sustainable solution for the Syrian crisis before “its repercussions spiral out of control”.

“The negative repercussions of the Syrian displacement are deepening Lebanon’s crises, but Lebanon will not be the only victim,” he said.

Syria demands return of Golan Heights from Israel

Syria demands return of Golan Heights from Israel
Updated: September 26, 2023, 7:46 PM