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Russia, Iran, Arab States Reject 'Unlawful' U.S. Decision On Golan Heights

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold up the Golan Heights proclamation after a meeting in the the White House in Washington on March 25.

Russia, Iran, and a number of Arab countries including U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf have blasted President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, charging that it violates international law and could undermine regional stability.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on March 26 that he was "saddened but not surprised" by international criticism triggered by Trump's decision, adding: "We are simply recognizing facts on the ground."

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said that "such decisions undoubtedly have negative consequences from the point of view of a settlement in the Middle East and the general atmosphere of political settlement in Syria."

He said Putin would discuss the matter with his visiting Lebanese counterpart, Michael Aoun, later in the day.

Trump signed a proclamation on March 25 officially granting U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Israeli forces seized the rocky plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, and effectively annexing it in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.

Trump's move came after the United States moved its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year, sparking international criticism as well as Palestinian and Arab anger.

During a meeting with Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, Aoun said in Moscow that "the leader of a foreign state has no right to dispose of someone else's territories this way," according to the Interfax news agency.

Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted President Hassan Rohani as saying that "no one could imagine that a person in America comes and gives land of a nation to another occupying country."

"Such action is unprecedented in the current century," Rohani added.

Four Gulf Arab states -- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait, all regional allies of Washington that host U.S. troops -- also rejected the decision.

Saudi Arabia has expressed its "firm rejection and condemnation of the declaration issued by the American administration," said a statement carried by the SPA state news agency.

It warned that the U.S. step would have "major negative effects" on Middle East peace-making efforts and the "security and stability" of the region.

Kuwait voiced "regret and dismay" over Trump's decision, while Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, said that it regarded the Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory.

Qatar called on Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights and comply with international resolutions.

In Syria, state news agency SANA reported that thousands of people had gathered in the streets of several cities to protest Trump's decision.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have been battling rebels and Islamist militants in a devastating eight-year civil war, has called the U.S. move a "blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Syria.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, Interfax, and AP