Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on the UN Disengagement Observer Force and the Golan Heights

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
March 27, 2019


Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo and Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, for your briefings today. The United States is concerned by the Secretary-General’s reports of continued military activities and presence of the Syrian armed forces in the Area of Separation.

UNDOF’s mandate is crystal clear. There should be no military activity of any kind in the Area of Separation, including military operations by the Syrian armed forces.

The daily presence of the Syrian armed forces in the Area of Separation diminishes the buffer zone that is essential for reducing tensions between the parties and keeping the peace. It is a violation of the Disengagement Agreement and threatens the 1973 ceasefire.

The United States and this Council cannot accept Syria’s efforts to establish its presence in the Area of Separation as a new norm.

Therefore, the United States calls on the Russian Federation to use its influence with the Assad regime to compel the Syrian forces to uphold their commitment to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and immediately withdraw from the Area of Separation.

Syrian military activities in and around the Area of Separation have triggered misunderstandings and hostilities with Israel that have put UNDOF peacekeepers in harm’s way. The freedom of movement and the safety of UNDOF personnel is of the utmost importance and must be ensured by the Syrian authorities.

The United States is also alarmed by the reports of Hizballah’s presence in the Area of Separation, which further heightens the potential for hostilities. There is no chance for peace between Syria and Israel if Hizballah is present in the Area of Separation. Hizballah has demonstrated it is willing to risk its fellow Lebanese people in attacking Israel, and we believe it has no qualms risking the lives of the Syrian people as well.

As we have said before, the United States strongly supports and affirms Israel’s sovereign right to self-defense.

The United States welcomes the mission’s progress in returning to its Bravo side operations. Recent events make clear that Syrian armed forces activities on the Bravo side go beyond those agreed to in the Disengagement Agreement. The United States encourages UNDOF and the Observer Group Golan to resume inspections in the areas of limitation on the Bravo side as soon as practical given conditions on the ground.

Turning to the Golan specifically, we briefed the Council yesterday that on March 25, President Trump signed a proclamation affirming that the United States recognizes that the Golan Heights are part of the State of Israel.

This announcement does not affect the 1974 Disengagement Agreement, nor do we believe that it undermines UNDOF’s mandate in any way. UNDOF continues to have a vital role to play in preserving stability between Israel and Syria, most importantly by ensuring that the Area of Separation is a buffer zone free from any military presence or activities other than those of UNDOF.

This decision is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel, and the U.S. believes it can contribute to stability.

As we said yesterday, to allow the Golan Heights to be controlled by the likes of the Syrian and Iranian regimes would turn a blind eye to the threats emanating from a Syrian regime that engages in atrocities and from Iran and terrorist actors, including Hizballah, seeking to use the Golan Heights as a launching ground for attacks on Israel.

And, for decades, the residents of the Golan Heights have been subject to the same administration and governed by the same laws as the rest of Israel.

The President’s statement on the Golan reflects a recognition of the unique circumstances that led us to deem it appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty at this time.

To be clear, the United States supports the goal of a secure and lasting peace between Israel and all its neighbors, including Syria. Such a peace should be achieved through direct discussions. Israel does not currently have a partner for peace in Syria.

Thank you, Madam President.