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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

United States votes against UN censure of Israel over Golan

It's the first time the US have voted instead of abstaining

The US has abstained from the vote in the past. Reuters
The US has abstained from the vote in the past. Reuters

For the first time, the United States voted against an annual UN resolution condemning Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights on Friday dropping its practice of abstaining in the vote.

The non-binding resolution was adopted in a General Assembly committee by a vote of 151 to 2, with the United States and Israel the only two countries opposing the measure. Fourteen countries abstained.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the resolution "useless" and "plainly biased against Israel," citing concerns about Iran's military role in Syria to oppose the measure.

"Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone. The destructive influence of the Iranian regime inside Syria presents major threats to international security," she said in a statement on the eve of the vote.

Israel seized control of much of the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed it, in moves never recognised by the international community.

The resolution declares that the Israeli decision to occupy and annex the Golan was "null and void," and calls on Israel to rescind that decision.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon applauded the US shift, which he said was "another testament to the strong cooperation between the two countries."

Donald Trump's administration has taken a strong pro-Israeli stance, defying UN resolutions by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and cutting aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman told an Israeli newspaper in September that he expected the annexed Golan Heights to remain under Israeli control "forever," and mentioned the possibility of US official recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory.

During a visit to Israel in August, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said there were no discussions on such recognition.

Israel and Syria, which have been embroiled in conflict since 2011, are still technically at war.

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Ahead of the vote, US diplomat Samantha Sutton said the US position on the status of the Golan Heights had not changed, but added that the resolution was out of touch with the situation on the ground.

"This resolution does nothing to address the increasing militarisation of the Golan and the serious threats that confront Israel from Iran and Hezbollah's presence in the area," said Sutton.

The resolution was adopted by the assembly's fourth committee on decolonisation.