Explainer - What is the significance of the Golan Heights

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"I am pleased with President Trump's recognition of Israel's valid, legitimate and necessary claim over the Golan Heights", Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel and president of Christians in Defense of Israel, said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Thursday emphasized the fundamental importance of states' territorial integrity under global law, criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump's remarks that the United States should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, an area seized from Syria and annexed in a move never recognized by the worldwide community.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other USA officials had denied in recent days that a change in official US policy was in the offing.

"It became clear to the worldwide community that the United States and their reckless policies, which are dominated by arrogance and hegemonic ambitions, are a major factor in exacerbating the situation in the global arena and threaten peace and stability", the Ministry underscored.

Israel later effectively annexed the Golan through legislation in 1981, although no country considered the move legal.

Less than a decade ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was waist-deep in serious negotiations with Syria for the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

"In our meetings with Administration and Capitol Hill officials there's been a clear understanding of the Golan Heights' importance to Israel's security".

Pompeo says Trump is like biblical queen who saved Jews
But Washington goes its way recognizing the Golan after its previous stunt with moving the USA embassy to Jerusalem. In an angry retort, the Syrian government said Trump's comments disregarded worldwide law.

President Donald Trump says that it's time to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Under the Trump administration, the US has repeatedly endorsed controversial Israeli positions. Israel and Syria signed an armistice in 1974 and the Golan had been relatively quiet since. It folded that job into the US embassy to Israel.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters during a visit earlier this month to the Golan Heights that he would lobby the Trump administration to recognize the occupied region as belonging to Israel. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase "Israeli-occupied" from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it "Israeli-controlled". It was not immediately clear how a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Golan might be affected by the USA move.

Trump made the momentous announcement via Twitter, his latest huge move towards backing Israeli's right-wing government at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is facing a corruption scandal and his toughest election in years. "We would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee". "The message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel".

The Times called Pompeo's visit to the historic landmark "significant", as it "could be seen as tacit American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the contested Jewish holy site and a shift in USA policy".

Trump's announcement came as Pompeo was wrapping up a two-day visit to Jerusalem during which he lauded warm ties with Israel, met with Netanyahu on at least three separate occasions and promised to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo is an ardent USA national security advocate and is widely considered positively disposed towards Israel.

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