US votes against UN Golan resolution for first time

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. voted for the first time Friday against an annual UN resolution condemning Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights.

Breaking with its prior practice of abstaining, the U.S. joined Israel in becoming the only two nations in the 193-member General Assembly to vote against the non-binding measure.

Nikki Haley, the U.S.’s UN envoy, said in a statement Thursday announcing the change in the U.S. vote "the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone."

In all, 150 states voted in favor of the resolution, which says Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights is in violation of international law and without legitimacy.

Australia, Cameroon, Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, Ivory Coast, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda and Togo were among the 14 countries who abstained.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, vowed that Israel will not withdraw from the occupied territory following the vote, arguing the international community should accept Israel’s facts on the ground.

Israel occupied the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War, capturing it from Syria.

It was formally brought under Israeli law in 1981 under then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a move that has never been recognized by the international community, and was met with criticism at the time by Washington.

It remains sovereign Syrian territory under international law, and Syria’s UN envoy vowed the country will retain the territory either peacefully or by war.

*Betul Yuruk contributed to this report from the United Nations