Syria will do whatever it takes to take back the occupied Golan Heights from the Israeli regime, says a high-ranking official.
Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad made the announcement on Sunday, in response to remarks made earlier by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who claimed "the Golan Heights will remain in the hands of Israel forever," during the regime's first cabinet meeting in the occupied territory.
Noting that the occupied region belongs to Syria according to international law, Mekdad stressed that the Arab Syrian Golan Heights will be taken back from the Israelis.
“All options are on the table for getting back the occupied territory from Israel,” he said during an interview aired on the Lebanese television channel al-Mayadeen.
“We are prepared to do anything in order to return the Golan to the Syrian motherland, including using military force,” Mekdad (pictured below) asserted.
During the Sunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also demanded that the international community recognize Syria’s Golan as Israeli territory. He said, “Whatever happens on the other side of the border, the border itself will not move. Secondly, after 50 years it is time that the international community realized that the Golan will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
Tel Aviv has portrayed the cabinet meeting as a symbolic gesture aimed at consolidating Israel's sovereignty in the occupied region despite international pressure.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 six-day war and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.
The regime has built tens of illegal settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.
Netanyahu also said that some 50,000 Israelis currently live there and "thousands of families... are supposed to join them in the coming years."
Opposition against Assad’s role in Syria
The Israeli premier made the remarks amid a ceasefire in Syria and UN-backed talks being held in Geneva aimed at finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
The Saudi-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has threatened to leave the current round of talks unless progress is made over demands for a political transition without Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"We might suspend (our participation in) the talks if things carry on this way, and then there will be no prospect for any political solution," said HNC member Abdulhakim Bashar.
Syria's government officials and the HNC representatives arrived in Geneva last week for the talks moderated by the UN's special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
Another unnamed HNC member noted that the talks had reached "an impasse" and are at risk of “failing.”
Before the talks kicked off, Mekdad rejected the “dream” of a transitional government without Assad, saying that such ideas are nothing short of a “coup d’etat.”
The last round of the talks came to a halt on March 24 over disagreements on the role of President Assad in Syria’s future.
The ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia went into effect on February 27 across Syria. The truce agreement does not apply to Daesh and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injuring 1.9 million others, and displacing nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.