U.N. Allegedly Rethinking Status of Disputed Border

By Marc Perelman

Published July 18, 2007, issue of July 20, 2007.

United Nations - As the first anniversary of last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah approaches, the United Nations’ recognition of Israel’s full withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 reportedly may be revoked, threatening to provide new ideological ammunition to the militant Shi’ite group.

The U.N. cartographer in charge of delineating the Israeli-Lebanese border is scheduled to visit the region before making a final recommendation to the world body’s secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. But according to a report last week in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the cartographer has already determined that an Israeli-controlled sliver of land straddling Israel, Lebanon and Syria is in fact part of Lebanon.

Ha’aretz reported that the U.N. had asked Israel to hand over control of the 15-square-mile area, known alternatively as Shebaa Farms or Har Dov, to its peacekeepers. Hezbollah, as well as Lebanon and Syria, has claimed since the Israeli pullout seven years ago that the territory is Lebanese. The U.N. has sided with Israel in ruling that it was part of Syria and, as such, that its fate should be decided between Jerusalem and Damascus.

Ban and Israeli officials denied the Ha’aretz report, which asserted that the issue had been raised in bilateral talks between the United States and Israel at the highest levels. U.N. officials stressed that no decision had been reached and that the cartographer is expected to visit the area this summer.

“There is no deadline; the cartographer needs to go to Israel and then finish his work,” said Stéphane Dujarric, a Ban spokesman. The next U.N. report on the issue is due in September.

The U.N.’s special envoy to the region, Michael Williams, told Reuters that the cartographer’s role was limited to mapping the area by conducting a physical survey and using old maps and documents. Williams added that the cartographer’s work is intended only to inform the diplomatic discussions that ultimately will decide the fate of the contested territory.



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