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Damascus Uncooperative with Lebanon’s Request to Demarcate Land Borders

Damascus Uncooperative with Lebanon’s Request to Demarcate Land Borders

Thursday, 15 April, 2021 - 10:15
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks as he meets with the Syrian cabinet in Damascus, March 30, 2021. (SANA/Handout via Reuters)

With the revival of talks about the demarcation of the maritime borders between Lebanon and Syria - after Damascus signed an oil exploration agreement in the exclusive maritime economic zone between the two countries - legitimate questions rose about the Syrian regime’s readiness to enter into serious negotiations with Lebanon to resolve the dispute.

Observers are awaiting the outcome of a recent call between Lebanese President Michel Aoun and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Al-Assad, and if the latter would decide to postpone the negotiations until Lebanon reaches an agreement with Israel over the disputed maritime areas.

Assad had previously stated that the land borders demarcation between Lebanon and Syria must start from the occupied Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba hills, in a direct response to the outcome of the Lebanese dialogue conference held in April 2006 upon the invitation of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Then-US envoy to Syria, Frederick Hoff, quoted Assad as saying that the Shebaa Farms and Kfarshouba hills belonged to Syria. The Syrian president did not deny the statement.

At the time, leaders who participated in the first dialogue conference told Asharq Al-Awsat that they agreed on the necessity of demarcating the land borders between the two countries, but they responded to the wish of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who asked to replace the word demarcation with delineation, as the first is used between two rival states, as he said.

The leaders affirmed that Nasrallah pledged to contact the Syrian leadership for this purpose.

However, Damascus reiterated its readiness to discuss the demarcation of the land borders between the two countries, with the exception of the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba hills, in an attempt to circumvent the pressure demanding it to deposit a document to the United Nations recognizing that the Shebaa Farms belonged to Lebanon.

The designation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to head the first government following the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Syria constituted an occasion to reopen the issue of demarcating the land borders between the two countries, starting with the northern region.

At that time, it was decided to form a Lebanese committee headed by Minister Jean Hogasapian, in exchange for Damascus’ willingness to form a similar committee of politicians and soldiers.

However, these committees failed to hold any executive meetings, until Syria decided to turn against Hariri, with the resignation of its allies, along with the ministers of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), from the government.

Damascus has not shown goodwill since the arrival of General Michel Aoun to the Presidency. The latter maintained communication with Damascus through former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Pierre Raffoul, who travels from time to time to the Syrian capital.

Moreover, the Syrian regime closes the door to the Lebanese calls to demarcate the borders in light of the increase in the number of illegal crossings that promote organized smuggling into Syrian territories.

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