The Legal Status of the Shabaa Farms

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson)
April 8, 2002

The Shabaa Farms area is not, and should not be, considered disputed territory – its status was clarified by a number of United Nations statements following the withdrawal of Israel forces from Lebanon in May 2000.

The United Nations views the Shabaa Farms area as Syrian territory. Therefore, UN Security Council Resolution 425 – which concerns Lebanon – does not require Israel to withdraw from this area.

In 1974, the United Nations drew up disengagement lines between Israeli and Syrian controlled territories to provide for areas to be patrolled by the UNDOF force. These lines marked Syrian territories, held by Israel since the 1967 and 1973 wars.

According to a report of the Secretary General of the United Nations dated 22 May 2000:

"…On 15 May 2000, the United Nations received a map, dated 1966, from the Government of Lebanon which reflected the Government’s position that these farmlands were located in Lebanon. However, the United Nations is in possession of 10 other maps issued after 1966 by various Lebanese government institutions, including the Ministry of Defense and the army, all of which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations has also examined six maps issued by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including three maps since 1966, which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic.

On the basis of the Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces of 31 May 1974 and its Protocol concerning the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which included maps initialed by Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic, the Shab’a farmlands fall within the scope of the area of operations of UNDOF. The area coming under the mandate of UNDOF has remained unchanged until the present time. It follows that in adopting resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), the Security Council could not have included as part of the UNIFIL area of operations an area which had already formed part of the UNDOF area of operations…" (UN Document S/2000/460)

This report, which was endorsed by the UN Security Council on 18 June 2000, affirms that Israel had fully withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425.

In its 18 June statement, the Security Council also noted that Israel and Lebanon had confirmed, to the Secretary General, that identification of the withdrawal line was solely the responsibility of the United Nations and that both sides would respect the line as identified. Moreover, the Security Council took notice, "with serious concern", of reports of violations – by Hizbullah – that had occurred since 16 June 2000 and called upon the parties to respect the line drawn by the United Nations.

Israel has emphasized this issue in the United Nations on a number of occasion during the nearly two years since the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon. For example, on 18 April 2001, the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations wrote to the Secretary General:

"…The territory referred to as Shabaa farms, which the Government of Lebanon now claims as Lebanese territory, was confirmed by the Security Council not to be on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line. The reasons for this are clearly set out in the report of the Secretary General dated 22 May 2000, a report which was subsequently endorsed by the Security Council on 18 June 2000."

Clearly, there is no question that the Shabaa farms area is recognized by the international community as not part of Lebanon. The status of these territories can ultimately be finalized in direct peace negotiations between Israel and Syria.

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UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in remarks to the press with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Foreign Minister of Spain Josep Pique, Foreign Minister of Russia Igor Ivanov, and European Union Senior Official Javier Solana in Madrid, Spain, on April 10, 2002, said:

"….With reference to the disturbances along the Blue Line emanating from Lebanese territory, I call on the Government of Lebanon and all relevant parties to condemn and prevent such violations. The Security Council itself confirmed in June 2000 that Israel had withdrawn from southern Lebanon in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426. Attacks at any point along the Blue Line, including in the Shebaa Farms area in the occupied Golan Heights, are violations of Security Council resolutions. Respect for decisions of the Security Council is the most basic requirement of international legitimacy…."

– U.S. State Department