Saniora: Israel must pull out of Shaba

Lebanese PM calls on Israel to free detainees, stop infringements.

saniora and Anan 298 AP (photo credit: AP)
saniora and Anan 298 AP
(photo credit: AP)
While Lebanon and Syria expressed willingness Friday to mark the border between their countries, they appear to have different approaches on dealing with the contentious issue of the Shaba Farms area on the foothills of Mount Hermon, which was captured by Israel when its forces seized the Golan Heights in 1967. The United Nations determined that the area is Syrian, and that Syria and Israel should negotiate its fate. But Lebanon claims the Shaba Farms, a claim that Syria has backed. Saniora called the return of Shaba Farms "a priority national issue" and said Lebanon will be asking the secretary-general "to confirm the specific steps required by the UN to recognize Lebanese sovereignty over the territory." "It is incumbent upon Israel to withdraw from it, hand over the Lebanese detainees in its prisons, submit the maps of the land mines it left in the south and stop its infringements on Lebanese sovereignty," he said. Saniora said Lebanon has approached the Syrian government in order to delineate the border in the Shaba Farms "so that the two governments will then deposit the border agreement with the United Nations, who will draw the appropriate consequences." "We still await a positive response from Syria," he said. Atieh told the council that the Syrian prime minister had sent a letter to Saniora on the subject. "We feel that there is no problem in demarcating these borders as some have implied," he said. But Atieh said that since the Shaba Farms is under Israeli control, "Israel must withdraw ... before our two countries, Lebanon and Syria, can demarcate their borders - because delineating the borders in Shaba can only occur after freeing this area from foreign occupation." Saniora noted that Syria had played a constructive role in preventing Lebanon's partition and in helping to achieve Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. The National Dialogue which 14 political parties began last month agreed unanimously "that the relations between the two sister countries should be strong and positive based on mutual respect, parity and non-interference, and I personally strongly believe in that," he added.