Syrian envoy to UN: Israel fabricating evidence against us
Ambassador says report on arms smuggling fake; Sources: UN estimates Shaba Farms span 20-40 square km.
The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations has submitted a letter to the UN secretary general saying that Israel is fabricating evidence against Syria's supposed smuggling of weapons to Lebanon.
Bashar Ja'afari told Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Syria protests the fact that the UN "adopted the fabricated claims that it received by Israeli intelligence sources."
The letter also addresses a report submitted several weeks ago by Terje Roed-Larsen, the secretary general's envoy to Lebanon and Syria, on the implementation of UN resolution 1559. The resolution requires the full withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence operatives from Lebanon.
Larsen wrote in the report that weapons are being smuggled to Lebanon through Syria. Though other UN reports have made the same claim - including a secretary general report and an independent investigation on the Syria-Lebanon border - Ja'afari demonstrated pointed contempt for Larsen's report specifically.
Ja'afari requested that the information Israel passed on to the UN be discounted because it is "hostile" to Syria and occupies its land, he said. The fact that Israel has information on activities on the Syrian-Lebanese border, Ja'afari wrote, proves that Israel is violating UN resolution 1701, which ended last summer's Second Lebanon War, by flying spy planes over Lebanese skies.
Ja'afar demanded that the UN Security Council take steps against the alleged Israeli flights, which he said take place on an almost daily basis.
He wrote in the letter that Israel also photographs trucks carrying "vegetables or other goods," and then "markets" the photographs as documenting weapons smuggling.
Sources: UN estimates Shaba Farms span 20-40 square kmUnited Nations cartographer Miklos Pinter has determined that the Shaba Farms, an area on the slopes of Mount Hermon claimed by Lebanon and under Israeli control, spans 20 to 40 square kilometers, according to diplomatic sources.
The area of Mount Hermon that is under Israeli control extends to 70 square kilometers, and the entire Golan Heights is 1,250 square kilometers.
Pinter's report will not be released ahead of the upcoming UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Lebanon and an extension of the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. The United Nations has decided there is no reason to raise the issue in the absence of an agreement on a diplomatic process to resolve the dispute and transfer control of the territory. As Haaretz reported last week, Israel has warned the United Nations against releasing the Shaba Farms map, fearing it could reignite the conflict and give Hezbollah an excuse to renew hostilities.
Pinter is due to visit the Shaba Farms area before submitting his final report on the matter. His current findings are based on material submitted by the Lebanese government as well as his familiarity with the area from the period when he coordinated the mapping of the Blue Line border between Israel and Lebanon after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.
The Shaba Farms was pastureland of the Lebanese village Shaba, in a region that had been part of the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon. The border between Syria and Lebanon, set in a 1923 agreement between the British and French mandatory powers, was not made completely clear. After the Israel Defense Forces withdrew from Lebanon, the Lebanese said Shaba Farms was part of their sovereign territory, and Hezbollah said its struggle with Israel was intended, in part, for "the liberation of the occupied land." Lebanon's claim was accepted by the Arab League, and forms part of the Arab peace initiative.
Israel convinced the United Nations in 2000 that the Shaba Farms are part of the Golan Heights and do not belong to Lebanon, and that the future of that area will be determined in Israeli-Syrian negotiations over the Golan. But the controversy has not abated, and after the Second Lebanon War last summer, the United Nations decided to map the area as a basis for determining who should have sovereignty over it.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected an American proposal during the war to transfer the Shaba Farms to the United Nations, saying that doing so would be rewarding terrorism. After the war, Olmert told UN representatives that he would agree to resolve the dispute as part of a package deal including the resolution of the situation along the Lebanese border. He even spoke about a state ceremony for the land transfer if the United Nations were to conclude that it belongs to Lebanon. However, the diplomatic sources said that over the past few months, Israeli interest in resolving the dispute has waned as Lebanon has become immersed in its own internal struggles.