Syria Rebukes Donald Trump for Israel Support: 'The Golan Was and Will Remain Syrian'

The Syrian government has pushed back at President Donald Trump for suggesting it is time to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, the mountainous region marking the border between the two nations.

Israel occupied the region during the 1967 Six-Day War, which was fought against an Arab coalition of Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, though the action was not recognized internationally.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted: "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 Heights are of vital strategic importance to both sides. Israeli observation posts in the Golan can peer deep into Syria, even as far as the capital Damascus. This puts the Syrians at a stark disadvantage. Israel never signed a peace treaty with Syria, so its control of the Heights also offers leverage in any future negotiations, for example, as a way to pressure Damascus for official recognition of the Israeli state.

According to Reuters, the Syrian state news agency quoted a foreign ministry source on Friday who said Trump's statement was a sign of "the blind bias of the United States" toward Israel.

The source also said Trump's comments did not change "the reality that the Golan was and will remain Syrian, Arab." The official added, "The Syrian nation is more determined to liberate this precious piece of Syrian national land through all available means" and called Trump's statement "irresponsible" and evidence of "contempt" for international law.

Syrian allies Iran and Russia also condemned Trump's Twitter diplomacy. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson told state television the recognition was "illegal and unacceptable" and "does not change the fact that it belongs to Syria." Russia warned that a change in the status of the Heights would violate United Nations resolutions, Reuters reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been pressuring Trump to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli since he moved into the Oval Office. According to Reuters, Netanyahu brought the issue up in his first White House meeting with Trump in February 2017.

Netanyahu is currently battling for re-election while also facing bribery charges. Trump's Golan statement may give the veteran politician a valuable boost in the polls ahead of voting on April 9. The two right-wing nationalist leaders have forged a close working relationship, which has seen the U.S. recognize Jersalem as Israel's capital, undermine the Palestinian leadership and create a multinational alliance against Iran.

Golan Heights IDF drill
Did Iran launch rockets at Israel? Israeli soldiers take part in training in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on April 11, 2018. JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images