Syria and Lebanon have agreed to take formal steps to define their
common border, a day after pledging to establish full diplomatic
relations for the first time.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
and his visiting Lebanese counterpart, Michel Suleiman, announced the
agreement in a joint statement Thursday. The two also agreed during a
second day of talks in Damascus to do more to control their borders.
border between Syria and Lebanon has been poorly marked in some areas
since the two countries gained independence from France more than 60
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told a news
conference Thursday that the borders of the disputed Shebaa Farms area
will not be included in the demarcation negotiations. He said the
region cannot be demarcated while it remains under "Israeli
Israel captured the Shebaa Farms when it seized
the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. The United
Nations considers the Shebaa Farms to be occupied Syrian territory, but
Beirut claims sovereignty over the area with the approval of Damascus.
between Syria and Lebanon have been strained since the assassination in
2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and the forced
withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon a few months later. Syria has
been widely blamed for the killing but denies involvement.
and Lebanon have never had formal diplomatic ties, but announced in
July they would open embassies in their respective countries. The two
countries agreed Wednesday to exchange ambassadors for the first time.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that the exchange of
ambassadors could prove to be a very good first step, if Syria also
respects Lebanon's sovereignty in other ways.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.