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Interview with Syrian Deputy FM Fayssal Mekdad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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New York, Asharq Al-Awsat-The UN Security Council is about to issue a resolution calling for the demarcation of borders between Syria and Lebanon and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries on the basis of UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen’s report. What is Syria’s position on the French-US draft resolution?

(Mekdad) We see no reason for the issuance of new UN Security Council resolutions on Syrian-Lebanese relations. Syria has fully implemented Resolution 1559. The request also exists in previous resolutions. We believe that Roed-Larsen’s latest report was not accurate in the analysis made or the conclusion reached. The report was not realistic in any of its elements. I wonder why the UN reports on Iraq do not tell the UN Security Council about the occupation of Iraq, where tens if not hundreds of thousands of (US) soldiers are present, although these reports talk about sovereignty and independence.

What is important is that Syria has protected Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty. It is the one which stopped the spilling of blood and destruction of the country. Syria, praised be God, has enough land and sovereignty and it does not need to exercise the policy of controlling other countries like Lebanon, the closest neighbor of Syria. We made all sorts of efforts to preserve Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.

We do not think the draft resolution serves Lebanon’s sovereignty or independence. It is a direct interference that undermines Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. It should be recalled that dialogue is going on among the national political parties in Lebanon and national dialogue still has a number of issues to resolve. We believe that the interference of these powers (France and the United States) in the national Lebanese dialogue by issuing new resolutions only aims to destroy the national Lebanese dialogue and create real difficulties for Syrian-Lebanese relations. Lebanon does not need more resolutions. It needs support and calm. Syria supports the national Lebanese dialogue and wishes it all success. We hope the representatives of the states adopting the draft resolution will not try to create more problems for the national dialogue.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Does this mean Syria will reject the resolution if adopted?

(Mekdad) Syria does not yield to pressures or dictates. This is well known about the Syrian policy, which has always sought to entrench Syria’s national values and policy, which serves its national interests and the interests of its Arab brothers. As I said, such a draft resolution is considered an encroachment even on the UN Charter. The United Nations has never issued a resolution demanding countries to exchange diplomatic relations and demarcate their borders. This depends on the will of the countries themselves as well as their sovereignty and independence. On this occasion, I would like to say that contacts are taking place on the highest levels between the brothers in Syria and Lebanon. Nabih Birri, speaker of the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies, paid a very successful visit to Syria. During the visit, these issues were discussed and agreement was reached that in principle Syria does not object to establishing diplomatic relations with Lebanon. The Syrian prime minister had earlier sent a letter to his Lebanese counterpart on the start of border demarcation, starting from northern Lebanon. This is a Syrian desire. We have learned that there are no border differences meriting a UN Security Council resolution. The UN Security Council does not usually pass resolutions on such issues. When a misunderstanding emerged between the two sides last week, joint committees were formed from the Damascus and Al-Biqa Governorates. These committees met within a few hours and solved the misunderstanding over a border area.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) France and the United States say the draft resolution was originally requested by the Lebanese Government. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora expressed this desire at the UN Security Council. He called on the Security Council to help delineate the borders.

(Mekdad) Al-Siniora came here to discuss certain issues at a time when the Syrian and Lebanese leaders were discussing them. I would like to stress that Syria has no regional ambitions in Lebanon. Fabrication is being practiced against Syria and Lebanon, particularly with regard to the Shab’a Farms, as if there is an attempt to depict Syria as the side that is occupying the Shab’a Farms and not the Israeli forces and tanks. We said and continue to say that we do not have any claims to the Shab’a Farms and that the farms are Lebanese. We have reiterated this for years. The Syrian leaders said this on all occasions. Syria will demarcate the borders when the Israeli occupation of the Shab’a Farms ends and the national authority spreads its sovereignty over them. The Shab’a Farms are Lebanese territory to which we have no claim.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) In his statement at the UN Security Council, Fouad al-Siniora called on Syria to disengage the Shab’a Farms from the Golan Heights and then demarcate the borders, considering the farms part of the Lebanese territories. Negotiations can then take place via the United Nations to ensure the Israeli forces’ withdrawal from them.

(Mekdad) I think this is Al-Siniora’s own scenario. We wish the Shab’a Farms would return to Lebanon at any moment because they are Lebanese. Actually, those making these demands in Lebanon or those who are imposing these demands on it have another aim. The aim is relieving Israel of its responsibility for the continued occupation of the Syrian territories and the Shab’a Farms and interfering in the Lebanese scenario and national dialogue. These demands are also aimed at maintaining tension in Syrian-Lebanese relations and blocking any effort to improve them. They also seek to give Israel an excuse to continue its occupation of southern Lebanon, particularly the Shab’a Farms.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Once again what is your position on Al-Siniora’s proposal to delineate the borders to include the Shab’a Farms, considering them Lebanese territory?

(Mekdad) Demarcation cannot take place under occupation. How will Syria send its experts and specialists to an occupied land? This looks impossible. Therefore, we will say the Shab’a Farms are Lebanese when they return to Lebanese sovereignty.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) What if the United Nations draws the border line?

(Mekdad) We support any UN effort to end Israel’s occupation of the Shab’a Farms, but we do not support the United Nations when it tries to put pressure on Syria through a report like that of Mr. Roed-Larsen. I said the report was neither accurate nor correct because the United Nations put pressure on Syria instead of Israel. It is Israel which is occupying the farms. We hope that the United Nations and Mr. Roed-Larsen will put pressure on Israel because it is the one occupying the farms and not Syria.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) The United Nations says it has documents and maps proving that the Shab’a Farms are part of the Syrian territories. Is the Syrian Government planning to present its documents and maps to prove that these farms are part of the Lebanese territories?

(Mekdad) I think we should not allow discussion of this subject to drag on because there are other important issues. The United Nations depends on maps based on the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and Shab’a Farms. We hope the United Nations will stop adopting these maps. All the Lebanese say the Shab’a Farms are Lebanese and this is what Syria says, too. It is essential to return to logic rather than deception as Israel is trying to do toward some UN employees.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) During your presence here, you met with the UN Security Council members in the hope of avoiding the adoption of the draft resolution currently discussed by the Security Council. Do you have any idea about the position some of these states, particularly Russia and China, will adopt toward the draft resolution?

(Mekdad) There are two points that need to be taken into consideration. The first is that Syria says there is absolutely no need for such a resolution because adopting it will complicate the situation in Lebanon. It is also interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs, the Lebanese national dialogue, and relations between two neighborly Arab countries. The second point is that some UN Security Council member states believe there is no need for such resolutions and things should be left to what is reached in negotiations by the member states. We are not a UN Security Council member state, but we hope that those presenting the draft resolution will consider Lebanon’s interest if they really seek its interest. We do not think such a resolution will serve such interests.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Let us suppose that the draft resolution is adopted. Will Syria then deal with it the way it dealt with UN Security Council Resolution 1559?

(Mekdad) Syria does not at all work under pressure. You may recall that when Syria withdrew from Lebanon it had already withdrawn most of its troops from the country. We were about to complete this withdrawal before Resolution 1559 was issued. When the resolution was adopted, the president said: We will withdraw our troops when there is no need for them there. This is what happened. Now we say that Syria is ready to discuss the demarcation of borders and establishment of diplomatic relations with the Lebanese side. Therefore, there is no need for this rude interference in Syrian-Lebanese relations. This is Syria’s way of dealing with the international community and UN resolutions. Therefore, such issues must be left to the Syrian and Lebanese sides.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) What prevents you from demarcating the borders and establishing diplomatic relations with Lebanon?

(Mekdad) Nothing at all prevents us from doing so. During Nabih Birri’s recent visit to Syria, we said that in principle Syria does not object to establishing diplomatic relations with Lebanon if this is the desire of the Lebanese brothers. Regarding the borders, we are ready to demarcate them from the north to the south. We hope that the Shab’a Farms and the Syrian Golan Heights will be liberated as quickly as possible so that we can directly demarcate the borders in that area.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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