Pompeo in Lebanon to talk Hezbollah amid Golan condemnation


Netanyahu has for weeks been stepping up longstanding Israeli requests for the USA and others to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan.

Mr Trump's remarks come as Mr Netanyahu faces a closely fought general election on 9 April, as well as a series of possible corruption charges.

Haaretz pointed to President Trump's decision to move the us embassy in Israel to Jerusalem when indicating he could use the same method to officially change the USA position on the Golan Heights.

Trump´s announcement coincided with a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Jerusalem, where he became the first high-ranking American official to visit the Western Wall alongside an Israeli prime minister - another boost for Netanyahu.

Iran said the statement was illegal and unacceptable, and Russian Federation said a change in the status of the Golan Heights would be a direct violation of United Nations resolutions.

The US had offered several hints that a decision on the Golan may be coming.

Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.

Mr Pompeo had earlier brushed questions about the change aside, but in comments to reporters ahead of a dinner with Mr Netanyahu and his wife at their Jerusalem home, the Secretary of State hailed the shift.

Since Trump's inauguration, the United States have taken more and more of a pro-Israel stance.

Pompeo, who has been on a regional tour to promote the Trump administration's hard tack against Iran, received a warning from Israel which worries it may again be in the sights of Hezbollah forces winding down their intervention in Syria's war.

Pompeo in Lebanon to talk Hezbollah amid Golan condemnation
Pompeo in Lebanon to talk Hezbollah amid Golan condemnation

The official recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan by the USA could come as soon as next week, during Netanyahu's visit to Washington, the analysts believe.

"Preserving national unity and civil peace is a priority for us", Aoun told Pompeo, the presidency said on its Twitter feed. "They're going to fail again", Netanyahu said.

The Trump State Department has likewise dropped previous definitions of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as being "occupied" by the Jewish state.

Why is the area contentious?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to launch attacks on Israel from the Golan Heights, saying, "I think for this reason and many more, it is time that the worldwide community recognizes Israel's stay on the Golan, and the fact that the Golan will always remain part of the State of Israel". That unilateral annexation was not recognised internationally and Syria demands the return of the territory.

A Golan Heights force was set up after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war to monitor the ceasefire. The Golan front has been mostly quiet since 1974, a year after Syria and Israel fought a war during which Damascus tried unsuccessfully tried to retake the plateau.

The Golan Heights is about 1,800 square kilometers on the northeastern edge of Israel along its border with Syria, with about two-thirds of it controlled by Israel and the remainder under contested Syrian control.

Both sides covet the Golan's water resources and naturally fertile soil.

Egypt, which made peace with Israel in 1979, said it still considers the Golan as occupied Syrian territory.

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