TEL AVIV – The Obama administration does not consider the Golan Heights part of Israel, U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby stressed Monday night, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the Golan “will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
“The U.S. position on the issue is unchanged,” Kirby told reporters during a daily briefing at the State Department in Washington. “This position was maintained by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Those territories are not part of Israel and the status of those territories should be determined through negotiations. The current situation in Syria does not allow this,” Kirby continued.
On Sunday, Netanyahu opened a meeting with the Israeli cabinet on the issue of the Golan with the declaration that “the Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli control.”
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz expressed support for Netanyahu’s comments, saying, “The government of Israel reiterated the reality that the Golan Heights are part of Israel’s sovereign territory.”
“Given the presence of hostile terrorist organizations ranging from ISIS to Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, it is foolhardy and dangerous for the international community to try to pressure Israel to abandon the Golan to the chaos engulfing Syria,” Cruz added.
Kirby’s comment followed condemnation by Germany which said the 1981 annexation of the territory was in violation of international law.
“It’s a basic principle of international law and the UN charter that no state can claim the right to annex another state’s territory just like that,” Martin Schaefer, spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, said Monday.
Netanyahu’s declaration was denounced as an “escalation that represents a brazen violation of international law” by Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, meanwhile, demanded that any future international talks will include the stipulation that the Golan Heights be considered occupied territory that must be returned to Syria.
On Thursday, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.