U.S. Rejects Netanyahu’s Pledge to Keep Golan

YERUSHALAYIM -

The State Department said on Monday night that the Obama administration does not consider the Golan Heights to be part of Israel, one day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared it “will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty.”

“The U.S. position on the issue is unchanged,” spokesperson John Kirby told reporters during a daily briefing 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.

The U.S. statement follows a similar one from Germany, earlier in the day.

“It’s a basic principle of international law and the U.N. charter that no state can claim the right to annex another state’s territory just like that,” said Martin Schaefer, spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry.

Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, despite condemnation from United Nations Security Council.

Netanyahu’s declaration came as U.N.-sponsored efforts are under way to obtain a political accord to end the civil war in Syria that could prejudice Israeli sovereignty in the Golan.

Officials in the prime minister’s office say that Syrian President Assad demanded that international talks will in part be based on the principle that the Golan Heights be considered occupied territory that must be returned to Syria.