UNITED NATIONS, (Reuters) – Lebanese President Emile Lahoud five years ago accepted controversial U.N.-drawn boundaries between his country and Syria but has disputed them ever since, a new U.N. report disclosed on Wednesday.
At issue are the Shebaa Farms, a largely uninhabited border area of some 10 square miles (25 sq km), occupied by Israel, and shelled regularly by Lebanon”s Hizbollah militia, who say they must liberate Lebanese territory.
The United Nations says the Shebaa farms are Syrian soil, unless Beirut and Damascus decide to change their borders.
But Lahoud and other officials in Beirut have argued that the area belongs to Lebanon and that Israel had not really withdrawn all its troops from southern Lebanon in May 2000 after 22 years of occupation.
A report from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on arms flows from Syria to Palestinian groups in Lebanon on Wednesday quoted for the first time a letter Lahoud had written to the United Nations in June 2000 on the U.N.-drawn boundary, known as the "blue line."
"In connection with the Shebaa farmlands, it is clear from the report of the secretary-general that a de facto line has been adopted for the area in light of the fact that there are no old maps that can confirm the boundary between Lebanon and Syria," Lahoud wrote.
He said that "while the United Nations notes that this line can in no way be regarded as affecting the rights of the parties concerned with respect to their international boundaries, Lebanon has accepted this assessment until such time as a joint formula for the farmlands area can be agreed by Lebanon and Syria for submission to the United Nations."
As late as last May, on the fifth anniversary of Israel”s troop withdrawal, Lahoud said he was "determined to liberate the remaining occupied Shebaa Farms from Israeli occupation."
Annan”s report says that a slew of maps issued by Lebanon and Syria after 1966 placed the farmlands inside Syrian territory, except for one 1966 Lebanese map "of questionable authenticity."
"Any Lebanese ”resistance” to ”liberate” the area from continued Israeli occupation cannot be considered legitimate," said the report, prepared by U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen.
"In addition, even if the Lebanese claim to the Shebaa Farms area were legitimate, it would be the responsibility of the government of Lebanon only to address this claim in conformity with international law and relevant Security Council resolutions," the report said.