Syria ‘will retake Golan Heights by any means necessary’ says deputy FM

Syria will ‘retake the Golan Heights by any means necessary, including using military force,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad said Sunday.

Speaking during an interview with Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen network, al-Mekdad continued to say that “the Arab Syrian Golan is an occupied territory,” and stressed that UN Security Council resolutions determine that the area is Syrian.

Responding to comments made earlier in the day by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Golan Heights would ‘forever’ remain in Israeli hands, al-Mekdad said that “Israel is trying to be provocative, but do not give in to it.”

“The Golan Heights will remain in the hands of Israel forever,” Netanyahu vowed at the start of the first cabinet meeting held in the territory, in comments broadcast on public radio.

“Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.”

Saying it was doubtful that Syria can return to what it was, he urged the international community to recognize Israel’s claim on the territory.

“While what is happening on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights is clear, one cannot say this about what is happening on the Syrian side,” Netanyahu said. “I spoke last night with US Secretary of State John Kerry and I told him that I doubt that Syria will ever return to what it was. It has persecuted minorities, such as the Christians, Druze and Kurds, who are justly fighting for their future and their security. But it also has terrorist elements, especially Daesh, Iran and Hezbollah, and others, that want to impose radical Islam on Syria and the region, and from there continue to impose it throughout the world.”

Israel fears Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah could establish a front against it along the Syrian border and that terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda and ISIS could also pose a threat.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

Netanyahu’s comments come amid a fragile ceasefire in Syria and indirect negotiations in Switzerland between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the opposition.