2019-03-28 20:17:00

Peace in the Middle East can only succeed within internationally agreed parameters, the permanent Representative of France to the UN said after an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss the United States recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the annexed Golan Heights.

“It is true on every key issue, and for the situation in the Golan in particular,” said Ambassador Francois Delattre.

Mr Delattre's remarks came as the 15 members of the Security Council talked about the Golan Heights at an open meeting on Wednesday, following President Donald Trump's decision

 on Monday to recognise Israel's occupation of the strategic mountain range.

The French representative said that 25 years after the Oslo Accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation started a peace process, “there might be a temptation to turn one's back on the agreed framework.” But, he warned the Security Council, the temptation to pursue a unilateral path is fraught with dangers.

Russia, Syria's closest ally, urged governments to continue considering the Golan Heights as occupied territory.

“If anybody feels any temptation to follow this poor example, we would urge them to refrain from this aggressive revision of international law,” Russia's deputy ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said.

And indeed, speaker after speaker expressed support for Syria's sovereignty, leaving the increasing US isolation on its Israel policy increasingly clear.

Ambassador Karen Pierce said the United Kingdom’s stance had not changed. “It is our position that the Golan Heights is territory occupied by Israel,” she said.

“Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter,” she said. “We emphasise [the] importance of adhering to a rules-based international system and abiding by UNSCRs, which are designed to protect that system.”

But Ambassador Pierce underscored the UK's support of Israel's right to defend itself and urged President Bashar Al Assad's regime, Hezbollah and Iran to “refrain from actions which will only lead to increased instability in the region as well as put civilians at risk”.

South Africa, whose fraught relations with Israel led to it downgrading its embassy in Tel Aviv, said the unilateral decision by the US “does nothing to assist in finding a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East”.

The European members of the council – France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Poland – also raised concerns about “broader consequences of recognising illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, underscored the importance of “global consensus” in resolving the conflict.

Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo expressed hope that “the recent developments will not be used as an excuse by anyone to pursue actions that could undermine the relative stability of the situation on Golan and beyond.”

Mr Trump's proclamation that the Golan Heights are part of Israel raised questions about the future of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) after its mandate expires on June 30.

US political coordinator Rodney Hunter told the council that UNDOF has “a vital role to play in preserving stability between Israel and Syria,” an assurance that the Trump administration's recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau won't affect its operation.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the strategic territory in 1981. In December that year a Security Council resolution called the annexation null and void, “without international legal effect”.