Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the US of escalating tensions instead of contributing to peace by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which was occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War. He also took aim at the US President personally for signing the controversial proclamation.
"Unfortunately, Trump is behaving like a bully boy", Erdogan said in an interview with Turkey’s A Haber broadcaster, as cited by the AFP news agency, also noting that "He did the same on Jerusalem".
Erdogan has also pointed out that with this decision, the Trump administration had gone against the UN, which declared Israel’s proclamation of sovereignty over the Golan Heights "null and void and without international legal effect".
"How can you do this despite the United Nations? What are you doing? Being at the helm of a state like the US does not give you such a right", Erdogan said.
The Turkish president has already denounced the US move, saying it would destabilise the Middle East and result in “a new crisis” and branding the recognition a “gift” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid the bribery and fraud allegations ahead of the elections.
Erdogan also revealed plans to turn the landmark Hagia Sophia, a former Byzantine cathedral in Istanbul, into a mosque after the local elections, which are set to take place this month, in response to the US policy shift on the Golan Heights.
Earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the decision, saying that it constitutes a grave violation of international law, particularly of United Nations Security Council Resolution 497 (1981), demonstrating that the US administration continues its approach of being part of the problem, rather than part of the solution in the Middle East.
Last week, Trump announced that it was time for the US to fully recognise Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, overturning over 50 years of US policy toward the region that complied with a UN Security Council resolution recognising the territory as belonging to Syria. He signed the historic proclamation on 25 March. While greeted with enthusiasm in Israel, the US president's executive order has been condemned by Russia, Syria, Iran, Turkey, and many other countries. Washington’s key allies in Europe, including France, Germany, and the UK, have confirmed they won't back Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian territory.
The Golan Heights, a strategically important area due to, among other factors, its water resources, has been under Israel's control for decades. It was seized by Israel from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967. In 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution urging Israel to immediately withdraw its forces from the area after the country organised local elections in the area on 30 October.