Thursday, November 1, 2007

UN explains where Shebaa farms are (is?)

Notably, the UN has not made a recommendation regarding who the Sheba farms area belongs to, though previously it had ruled conclusively that it belonged to Syria and not Lebanon. Also interesting that the UN calls for implementing resolution 1701 (disarmament of Hezbollah).
Last update - 10:55 01/11/2007    
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
A periodic report issued by the United Nations has, for the first time, defined the area covered by the Shaba Farms on the basis of expert cartographic work.
The report, the fifth to the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 1701 which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War, also criticizes the continued rearmament of paramilitary groups in Lebanon, particularly Hezbollah.
Although the report issued Wednesday criticizes Israel for continued violations of Lebanon's airspace, and failure to provide all the data on the locations of cluster bomb attacks, it does not require Israel to enter separate negotiations on the fate of the Shaba Farms, or to surrender the area to the UN.
In his report to the Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released the findings of cartographer Miklos Pinter, whose assignment had been to determine the borders of the disputed area.
"I am pleased to report that, based on the best available information, the senior cartographer has arrived at a provisional definition of the Shaba Farms area," writes the Secretary General. He also points out that "this exercise has not been aimed to delineate international boundaries as regards to the Shaba Farms, but should assist Lebanon and Syria in their efforts to agree upon their common border."
According to Pinter's findings, the territory in question includes many IDF military positions, and serves as a strategic crossroads between the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel.
The area forms a trapezoid beginning on the international border, close to the village of Majidiye in southern Lebanon, and moving southeast toward an area known as Ma'ar Shaba. It then runs along the Siyon stream toward the northeast, until it meets the international border again, just north of the Barhata Farms.
Pinter's findings are based on evidence he received from the government of Lebanon and on visits to the area on both sides of the border, the latest being on September 5, from the Israeli side of the border.
According to the calculations of Dr. Yigal Kipnis from Haifa University, the territory described in Pinter's findings includes large portions of Mount Dov, and covers an area of approximately 25 square kilometers.
Israel is particularly pleased that the secretary general included in the report that the issue of the Shaba Farms "cannot be separated from the principles and elements required for the permanent cease-fire and long-term solution identified in resolution 1701 (2006)."
The Shaba Farms are in an area that was part of the French Mandate over Syria and Lebanon and which is now controlled by Israel, which annexed it as part of the Golan Heights. The area was never clearly marked since the British and French Mandates in the area.
Following the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Lebanon has insisted that Shaba Farms constitute part of its sovereign territory. However, at the time the United Nations determined that the area was part of the Golan Heights, and that the matter would be decided in a future agreement between Israel and Syria.
Following the Second Lebanon War, the UN began marking the border area between Lebanon and Syria, and Israel has insisted that the sovereignty issue over the Shaba Farms cannot be decided conclusively until the border between its two neighbors is fixed.
Both Lebanon and Syria have asked in recent months that the Shaba Farms be transferred to UN custody, but Israel is opposed to the idea.
In his report, the secretary general was critical of Syria's failure to provide the UN with specific details pertaining to the Shaba Farms.
In addition to the Shaba Farms, which was only a portion of the report, the secretary general focused on the rearming of paramilitary groups in Lebanon, especially Hezbollah.
Ban Ki-moon quotes Israeli sources as claiming that Hezbollah tripled its arsenal of C-802 anti-ship missiles, which struck an Israeli destroyer during last year's war, killing four.
Ban writes that Israel alleges that Hezbollah has rearmed itself "at a level higher than prior to last year's conflict... that Hizbullah's long-range rocket force is stationed in areas north of the Litani River, and that most of the new rockets supplies - including hundreds of Zilzal and Fajr generation rockets - have a range of 250 Km, enabling them to reach Tel Aviv and points further south."
The UN chief wrote that "addressing [Hezbollah's] disarmament remains critical to the extension of the authority of the government of Lebanon over all its territory," and that Israel considers "the nature and number of weapons in Hizbullah's control... a strategic threat to its security and the safety of its citizens."

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