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4 Dec, 2019 01:24

‘Stumbling block for peace’: UN General Assembly calls on Israel to withdraw from Syria’s Golan Heights

‘Stumbling block for peace’: UN General Assembly calls on Israel to withdraw from Syria’s Golan Heights

The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution demanding that Israel vacate the Golan Heights – Syrian territory it captured in 1967 and has occupied since – arguing its presence in the disputed region is an obstacle to peace.

Passed in a 91-65 vote with 9 abstentions on Tuesday, the resolution called on Israel to abandon the Golan after over 50 years of occupation, insisting that nations may not acquire territory by conquest, a core principle of international law.

“The continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region,” the resolution said, demanding that “Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan.”

The rebuke comes months after US President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, reversing longstanding American policy and contradicting a number of previous UN resolutions condemning Israel’s presence in the territory. In another more recent about-face, Washington also rubberstamped Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which have also been the subject of past UN measures.

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In addition to the Golan resolution, the General Assembly passed four other measures related to Israel on Tuesday, one urging “respect for, and the preservation of” occupied Palestinian lands – including the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and reaffirming the “illegality of Israeli settlement activities.” The other resolutions recognized the work of UN departments devoted to Palestine issues, and requested the continuation of a “special program” to disseminate information on Palestine and related UN decisions. The United States voted against all five measures in tandem with Tel Aviv.

Unlike resolutions passed in the UN Security Council, which are legally-binding, the General Assembly has no power to enforce its measures, making Tuesday’s adoptions largely symbolic. But they may nevertheless underscore growing international opposition to Israel’s decades-long occupation and settlement project.

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During its war with Egypt in 1967, Israel captured Sinai and Gaza – both held by Egypt at the time – annexed the West Bank from Jordan, seized the Golan Heights from Syria, and occupied East Jerusalem, tripling the country’s size in a matter of days. To date, Israel has only vested control of Sinai and continues to occupy the other territories.

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