Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 17:59 pm (KSA) 14:59 pm (GMT)

Syria protests Israel's 'illegal' Golan wine

The Golan Heights is a rich agricultural area that was part of Syria until Israel annexed it (File)
The Golan Heights is a rich agricultural area that was part of Syria until Israel annexed it (File)

Syria protested to the United Nations about what it called Israel's illegal use of produce from the occupied Golan Heights after Israel distributed wine made from grapes grown in the territory as year-end holiday gifts to U.N. staff.

In letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto, Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari condemned the Israeli mission's "provocative and irresponsible behavior" in distributing wine from grapes harvested, and in bottles made, on the Golan.

"I would appreciate it if you would request all United Nations staff to refrain from accepting these Israeli gifts produced illegally in occupied Syrian territory," he said.

The letters, dated Dec. 31, were made public on Friday.

Ja'afari said the building of the winery where the bottles were produced violated Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to protect private and public land, property and water resources on occupied territory.

Israel's U.N. mission confirmed it had sent out the wine but said this was perfectly appropriate.

"The Golan Heights is an integral part of the state of Israel and the wine produced in that region is some of the best in the country. As such, we were pleased to share it with our colleagues," Israeli mission spokeswoman Mirit Cohen said on Friday.

The Golan Heights is a rich agricultural area and belonged to Syria until Israel captured it in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move rejected by the United Nations. The future of the heights is a key issue in any future Syrian-Israeli peace deal.

Ban's spokeswoman, Michele Montas, said she had no immediate comment on Ja'afari's letter.

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