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Blinken refrains from endorsing Trump 'recognition' of occupied Golan Heights as 'Israeli'

Blinken did say that the Golan Heights was important to Israel's security. [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 February, 2021

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Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will not withdraw US recognition of the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli, but has said that legal questions do remain.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has held back from endorsing the Trump-administration's recognition of the occupied Golan Heights as part of Israel, but did describe the land as being important for Israel’s security. 

"As a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation I think remains of real importance to Israel's security," Blinken told CNN.

"Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that's something we look at, but we are nowhere near that."

Former President Donald Trump granted official US recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory in 2019, a move that was a divergence from previous US policy that viewed it as occupied Syrian land.

Trump's move was warmly welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel captured the Golan from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war, and officially annexed the territory in 1981. 

The US remains the only other country in the world to recognise the Golan as Israeli territory, with almost the entire international community viewing the annexation as illegal. 

Blinken cited the ongoing conflict in Syria and the build-up of Iranian militia groups in the south of the country as a "significant security threat" to Israel.

Blinken's comments mirror previous statements by Biden officials who said that the president would not withdraw US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. Likewise, the Biden administration has said that it would not change course on US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. 

Relations between the US and Israel have cooled since Biden took office, with the new administration promising to restore aid to the Palestinians, which had been cut by Trump.

Washington is also expected to reject the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land and pursue a two-state solution. 

Read more: ICC Israeli war crimes probe is first real test for Biden administration

"The only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution," said Blinken during his confrontation hearing in the Senate.

It has been noted by regional watchers that Biden is yet to have a phone call with Netanyahu.

Both Obama and Trump reached out to the Israeli leader within the first few days of taking office.

According to Blinken, "I'm sure that they’ll have occasion to speak in the near future".

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