Russia will not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan, foreign minister says


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Russia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country will not agree to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights unless it is approved by the international community.

Sergey Lavrov was responding to the call by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to accept his nation’s presence on the Golan Heights, which Israel took from Syria in 1967 during the Six-Day War.

“Today we see what is happening over the border – Iran’s attempts to establish a military presence and the aggression of terrorist fanatics. We will continue to stand strong and determined against all of these,” Netanyahu said Tuesday at the dedication of a synagogue at the Ein Keshatot archaeological site on the Golan Heights. “Israel on the Golan Heights is a guarantee for stability in the surrounding area. Israel on the Golan Heights is a solid reality based on ancient rights. Israel on the Golan Heights is a fact that the international community must recognize, and as long as it depends on me the Golan Heights will always remain under Israeli sovereignty because otherwise we would have Iran and Hezbollah on the shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).

“I know that President Putin understands my commitment to the security of Israel, and I know that he also understands the importance that I ascribe to the Golan Heights, that we all ascribe to the Golan Heights and to the heritage of Israel.”

Netanyahu announced earlier in the week that he would meet soon with Putin.

Lavrov, appearing before reporters in Moscow, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin recognizes the importance of the Golan for Israel.

Still, he said, “The status of the Golan Heights is determined by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. Changing this status bypassing the Security Council, from my perspective, would be a direct violation of these resolutions.”

Relations between Israel and Russia have been strained since the accidental downing last month of a Russian surveillance plane by Syrian anti-aircraft fire in the area of an Israeli airstrike on a facility of the Syrian armed forces.  Fifteen Russian troops were killed in the incident, which Russia blames on Israel.

Russia accused the pilots of the Israeli F-16 fighter jets of using the Russian Ilyushin IL-20 airplane as a shield against the Syrian anti-missile system. In response, Russia said it would transfer to Syria its sophisticated S-300 missile air defense system.

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