Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Leader of the Future Bloc MP Saad al-Hariri and Leader of the Democratic Gathering MP Walid Jumblatt cautiously welcomed the move of establishing diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria.
In statements made to Asharq Al-Awsat, however, both leaders severely criticized Syria’s refusal to demarcate the border at the Shaba Farms. Al-Hariri said, “Syria helps Israel to continue the occupation of the Shaba Farms.” For his part, Jumblatt noted, “The Lebanese-Syrian summit did not confirm the Lebanese identity of these farms.” He proposed that “a joint Lebanese-Syrian document be sent to the United Nations, declaring that the farms are Lebanese.” While Al-Hariri called for establishing diplomatic exchange “as soon as possible”, Jumblatt said that this step “may be a positive beginning for the relations between the two countries.”
Al-Hariri also stated that the, “Establishment of diplomatic relations [between Lebanon and Syria] has been one of the demands that were made by the 14 March [Group] since the beginning of the independence uprising following the assassination of [former] Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri on 14 February 2005.”
“We welcomed all declarations of intent regarding these demands. The latest declaration came in that [joint Lebanese-Syrian] communiqué. However, we expect serious implementation by fixing a firm and clear date for establishing these relations. For our part, we will ask the Lebanese Government to start from today to take all the measures to establish these relations as soon as possible.” Al-Hariri added.
Al-Hariri expressed discomfort with Syria’s refusal to demarcate the border at the Shaba Farms, saying that, “We are not surprised to see the state, which negotiates with Israel in Turkey disregarding all Arab resolutions, helping the Israeli occupation forces to remain in the Shaba Farms by rejecting the demarcation of the border there.” “Anyway, in order for the Syrian Government to prove its seriousness in dealing with this issue, we suggest that the demarcation of the borders between us begin from the Al-Masna [border] point to the north and south simultaneously.” he added.
Al-Hariri went on to sat that the aim is to resolve all border problems, including the smuggling of weapons, terrorists, and illegal military centers that use the border as their bases. In particular, the Shaba Farms border should be demarcated from the farthest point in the north to the southern most edge.
For his part, Jumblatt described the move of establishing diplomatic relations as “a positive beginning in [the fulfillment of] the long list of demands that were agreed upon at the negotiating table.”
“This move may establish the required relations according to the Al-Taif agreement, which called for distinguished relations. However, the two states must recognize each other and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs.” Jumblatt told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Jumblatt emphasized that, “The Al-Taif agreement should always be the starting point because the Doha agreement asserted it. This agreement should be implemented to the letter. In other words, the state’s authority should be extended to all Lebanese territories, the truce agreement should be enforced, and the [Hezbollah] weapons issue should be resolved through the defense plan.” He pointed out that this plan can be implemented only through dialogue.
Jumblatt continued that the, “Establishment of diplomatic relations resolves the second issue that was agreed upon during the national dialogue. The first issue is the international tribunal (that deals with the assassination of former Prime Minister Al-Hariri) and the third one is the border issue.”
“I remember that (Hezbollah Secretary General) Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah used the phrase ‘ delineation and then demarcation’ to avoid causing concerns for Syria.” Jumblatt told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Delineation or demarcation [of the border] does not cancel the Lebanese identity of the Shab’a Farms. The Syrian and Lebanese governments should sign and send to the United Nations a joint document recognizing the Lebanese identity of the Shaba Farms in order to confirm that the farms belong to Lebanon.” He added.
Jumblatt noted that, “Up until now, the issue of the farms has not been settled, and the latest meeting (between the Syrian and Lebanese presidents) did not confirm the Lebanese identity of the Shaba Farms.”