Syria called on the Security Council today to impose sweeping military, economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel for its annexation of the Golan Heights, and warned Washington that a veto of the measure would pose a threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Syrian Ambassador Dia-Allah Fattal also reserved his government's right to use armed force to "deal with this aggression" if the council fails to act.
"A mere condemnation will not be sufficient," he said. "We demand sanctions and only mandatory sanctions."
Fattal also accused Washington of "encouraging Israel's intransigence" by continuing to give it political and military support and refusing to recognize the Arab case.
The Syrian ambassador launched a debate on the Golan Heights annexation in which Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Blum responded that Israel was forced to resolve the status of the Golan Heights because of Syria's long refusal to negotiate a peace agreement.
"This Syrian position has placed the Golan Heights and its inhabitants in a limbo," said Blum. "Israel could not wait endlessly for Syria to make peace, and had thus to act to normalize the situation regarding the Golan Heights."
Diplomats expect the debate to continue into next week and end with either a compromise falling short of mandatory sanctions or, more likely, a showdown vote on Syria's hard-line sanctions demand, which Washington has vowed to veto.
The council adopted a resolution in December, after Israel decided to annex the Golan Heights, calling on Israel to rescind its legislation, and declaring it "null and void."
An Israeli settlers' group announced plans in Tel Aviv Wednesday to build seven new settlements in the Golan Heights, The Associated Press reported. There are already 2,700 Israelis living in 30 settlements and one town on the heights.
The backstage negotiations at the United Nations on the Syrian resolution have not yet moved into high gear. Syria must still round up the required nine-vote majority to provide it with negotiating leverage, and the Americans are lobbying to prevent that.
U.S. officials admit that there are divisions within the U.S. administration over a Saudi proposal under which the council would call on governments to take unspecified voluntary actions against Israel that fall short of mandatory sanctions.
This concept came up briefly during a National Security Council meeting in Washington yesterday, they said, but the only decision there was to wait until the compromise plan emerged in more specific terms.
Israeli Ambassador Blum said it was preposterous "that Syria should be permitted to unleash repeated acts of aggression and then, having been repulsed, should be permitted to come before this council to find fault with legislation which seeks in the absence of peace or even of negotiations to normalize the situation in the area in question."
The Israeli also reaffirmed his government's willingness to "negotiate unconditionally with Syria."
But Fattal argued that the Israeli concept of peace is "peace imposed by force."