US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony BlinkenState Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday stopped short of endorsing the Trump administration’s recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

“As a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation I think remains of real importance to Israel’s security,” Blinken told CNN in an interview.

“Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we look at, but we are nowhere near that,” he added.

Blinken pointed out that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government as well as the presence of militia groups backed by Iran pose a “significant security threat” to Israel.

Former President Donald Trump announced in March of 2019 that the US would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

This past November, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first US Secretary of State to visit the Golan Heights.

Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory was met with condemnation from the Arab world, with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait all saying that the Golan Heights is “occupied Arab land”.

The move also drew criticism from the European Union, which said it regarded the Golan Heights as “occupied territory”.

Biden’s advisers have said in the past that he would not withdraw US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, noted Reuters.

In the interview, Blinken also reiterated the Biden administration's commitment to keep the US embassy in Jerusalem. Biden has said he would keep the US embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, despite the fact that he objects to the conditions under which Trump decided to move it.

When asked why Biden has not yet spoken with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Blinken replied, "I'm sure that they'll have occasion to speak in the near future."