Syria condemns Pompeo's visit to 'occupied' Golan Heights

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks after a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights November 19, 2020. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syria condemned U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the “occupied” Golan Heights on Thursday in the “strongest language” and said it was a provocative act before U.S. President Donald Trump leaves his post, state media said.

Pompeo became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit an Israeli West Bank settlement and the Golan Heights. Palestinians and Arab states said the move would help cement Israeli control over occupied territory.

Syria called on the international community and the U.N to condemn the “provocative” visit, which it said violated international resolutions, a government source was quoted on state media as saying.

“The visit is a provocative move before the end of Trump’s administration and a flagrant violation of our sovereignty,” the statement said.

Trump delighted Israel in 2019 by recognising Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The Heights were part of Syria until 1967, when Israel captured most of the area in the Six Day War, occupying it and annexing it in 1981. That unilateral annexation was not recognized internationally, and Syria demands the return of the territory.

Syria tried to regain the Heights in the 1973 Middle East war, but was thwarted. Israel and Syria signed an armistice in 1974 and the Golan had been relatively quiet since.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Hesham Abdul Khalek in Cairo; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Macfie