The Canadian government said it does not recognize permanent Israeli control of the Golan Heights hours after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a decree recognizing the disputed region as Israeli territory.
“In accordance with international law, Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over the Golan Heights. Canada’s long-standing position remains unchanged,” Global Affairs Canada said in a statement.
“Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law. Any declaration of a unilateral border change goes against the foundation of the rules-based international order.”
Global Affairs added that Canada remains “a steadfast friend” of Israel’s, saying: “We stand with Israel and support Israel’s right to live in peace and security with its neighbours.”
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked on in the White House as Trump signed a proclamation officially granting U.S. recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory, a dramatic shift from decades of U.S. policy.
“This was a long time in the making,” Trump said.
He then handed the pen that he used to sign the proclamation to Netanyahu and said: “Give this to the people of Israel.”
Netanyahu had been pressing Trump for U.S. recognition since shortly after Trump took office.
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However, the United Nations took the same position as Canada, with a spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying that UN policy on the Golan “is reflected in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and that policy has not changed.”
Syria described Trump’s proclamation as a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity and said it had every right to reclaim the Golan.
Israel captured the Golan — a region which also borders Syria and Jordan — in the Six-Day War of 1967, which pitted Israel against Arab neighbours Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
Syria tried to retake the region in 1973 but failed.
Israel then went on to annex the Golan in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution declaring Israeli jurisdiction over the region “null and void without international legal effect.”
Israel’s determination to hold on to the Golan can be traced to one key factor: security.
Israel sees the Golan as a buffer zone between itself and conflict-ridden neighbour Syria.
The Israeli government says that regional foe Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is looking to establish itself on the Syrian side of the border to launch attacks on Israel.
Both countries also covet the Golan’s water resources and fertile soil.
Israel and Syria last held talks over a possible agreement over the Golan in 2000, but the negotiations collapsed.
The two countries’ armies are separated in the Golan by a 400-square-kilometre demilitarized zone, which is observed by members of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization.
More than 40,000 people live on the Israeli-occupied Golan.
Around 20,000 of them are Druze, members of an Arab minority who practice a variant of Islam. After annexing the Golan, Israel offered Druze the option of citizenship, but most of them rejected it and still identify as Syrian.
The other approximately 20,000 Golan residents are Israeli settlers.
— With files from Reuters