On March 21, 2019, United States President Trump tweeted, “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
Regardless of one’s position within the spectrum of persuasions about whose sovereignty should be respected in the Golan Heights or the arguments used to justify its annexation to Israel, Trump’s declaration is unprecedented, post-WWII. Trump’s statement does not appear to be the official United States government policy yet. However, the die is cast. Trump has undermined the manifest inadmissibility of states acquiring territory by force. Lest we forget, the first Gulf war over the Iraqi attempt at annexing Kuwait by force.
Trump also dismisses United Nations Security Council Resolution 497, which states, “…the Israeli Golan Heights Law, which effectively annexed the Golan Heights, is “null and void and without international legal effect.” The same United Nations, with Resolution 181, mandating the partition of Palestine, recognized the State of Israel. Rather than to expose yet another hypocritical move in international relations, what message is Israeli support for Trump’s unilateral declaration sending to conflicting sides in territorial conflicts? What about Indian-administered Kashmir? What about Azerbaijan’s territorial claim over the Armenian-administered region of Nagorno-Karabakh? Not a very good message for the interests of Azerbaijan.
A relative comparison of arguments used and issues raised concerning the Armenian-administered region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights is seen here. Of more importance to Azerbaijan is how Trump has just trampled on the concept of internationally recognized borders. Syria had recognized borders until violated by Trump; the same Trump who wants a border wall of his own from Texas to San Diego. Azerbaijan’s articulated basis upon which they demand that the Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh relinquish its sovereignty to them is their claim of territorial integrity. The Azerbaijan press is full of article quoting states that reiterate the concept of territorial integrity.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group was established to help negotiate a peaceful settlement, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, of the still-simmering Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Its members include the United States, Russia, and France. Russia annexed Crimea, although with nearly no force, it acquired Georgian territory, and the United States president declared support for the inclusion of the Syrian Golan Heights into the State of Israel. From Baku’s viewpoint, the OSCE Minsk Group does not appear to represent neutral facilitators when two of its three members represent states that ignore both territorial integrity and selective United Nations resolutions. The OSCE’s Minsk Group is making itself less relevant to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenian negotiators could use Trump’s declaration to pull out of OSCE-sponsored negotiations and Armenia could directly annex the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, considering Nagorno-Karabakh “… is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of” [Armenia] “and Regional Stability!”. Azerbaijan would be outraged by such an Armenian move, but curiously official Baku appears rather silent about Trump’s Golan Heights declaration. Why?
Israel supports Azerbaijan’s public relations campaign against the Armenian lobbies and Armenian-administered Nagorno-Karabakh. This support is demonstrated in some of today’s Israeli and Jewish publications, and publicly stated during a September 2015 Israeli Knesset visit to Baku. Why would Israel even care about Azerbaijan? Israel buys half its crude oil from Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan has purchased on the order of $5B of advanced Israeli weapons over the past decade. This is a relationship of convenience and Azerbaijan has a border with Iran.
Will Turkey now annex northern Cyprus, which was also acquired by force? Turkish jets frequently buzz Greek islands also claimed by Ankara. If southwestern Syria is up for the taking, why not other parts. Since 1920 Turkey has eyed the northern Syrian landmass stretching from the Western Thrace to Mosul in Iraq. Conveniently, Turkey currently claims its soldiers are in northern Syria for security reasons.
There are consequences to what United States Presidents declare.