U.S President Donald Trump on Monday signed a decree recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
“This was a long time in the making," Trump said as he was signing the order alongside Netanyahu in the White House.
"Today, aggressive action by Iran and terrorist groups in southern Syria, including Hezbollah, continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks against Israel - very violent attacks," Trump said. "This should have been done numerous presidents ago."
After signing, Trump handed his pen to Netanyahu and said: "Give this to the people of Israel".
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war, and unilaterally annexed the area in 1981; a move that wasn't recognized internationally.
Syria said that the move makes Washington “the main enemy” of Arabs, deeming the recognition decision as a “slap” to the international community.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the decision is a “blatant aggression” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, blasting it as the “highest level of contempt for international legitimacy.”
Russia warned against "a new wave of tensions" in the Middle East as a result of the recognition move, saying that the move "ignores all international laws" and would "only aggravate the situation".
"Unfortunately, this could drive a new wave of tensions in the Middle East region," Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Lebanon's Foreign Ministry warned that Trump's decision to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory undermines any efforts to reach a fair peace in the region, adding that said area is "Syrian Arab".
“No country can falsify history by transferring land from one country to another," the ministry said in a statement.
The U.N. Security Council also condemned the U.S. move, adding that Israel's attempt to “impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “clear that the status of Golan has not changed,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, stressing that the policy is reflected in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.
Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the U.S. of ignoring the international law, saying that such a decision will not legitimize Israeli "occupation".
Saudi Arabia condemned Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, adding that attempts to impose fait accompli do not change the facts.
"The Golan Heights was an “occupied Syrian Arab land in accordance with the relevant international resolutions," a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency said early on Tuesday.
“It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region,” it added.