Israel no longer occupies Golan Heights under its territory, US state department confirms

The United States will no longer refer the Golan Heights as an “Israeli-occupied” territory according to its latest annual human rights report which was published on Wednesday, with the US department of state saying the wording change does not mean a policy change.

According to Dawn news reports, the latest report now calls the region as the “Israeli-controlled Golan Heights”. A senior US official when questioned over the change on a sensitive Middle East matter, said, “There’s no change in our outlook or our policy vis-a-vis these territories and the need for a negotiated settlement there.”

State department’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labour, Michael Kozak, said, “This, by the way, is not a human rights issue, it’s a legal status issue.”

He said, “What we try to do is to report on the human rights situation in those territories, and so you’re just trying to find the way of describing the place that you’re reporting on,” adding, “And ‘occupied territory’ has a legal meaning to it; I think what they tried to do is to shift more to just a geographic description.”

The Golan Heights is a strategic area covering some 1,200 square kilometres, being used by Israel as a natural buffer zone against possible military threats from Syria.

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