The Question of Borderlines

May 9-1916, Secret convention made during World War between Great Britain and France , for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The agreement took its name from its negotiator, Mark Sykes of Britain and Geerges picott of France. On the eve of the end of the First World War, and upon the defeat of the Ottoman Sultanate and its losing of many of its Arab provinces. the competition was agitated between the French and British Empires over the provinces due to different regions to be controlled as already agreed between them under Sykes-Picott plans. Such competition led to inserting many amendments to Sykes-Picott Treaty. Consequently the borders of the British-occupied area of the Hebron Region were stretched, in deviation from the conditions of Sykes-Picot Treaty, from a point to the north of Akka City to the southern coast of Al-Houleh Lake. In the autumn of 1918, the British army tore the Golan region out of the Turks and set up a temporary administration therein with a border superposing in some of its points as described under Sykes-Picott Treaty. It was a straight line stretching from Banias to the eastern coast of Tiberius Lake. On 23 December 1920, Britain and France reached an agreement upon new borders which kept a great part of the Golan territory, excluding Al-Qunaitra, in Britain's hands. The annexation of Palestine was the first issue within the application of the British directives. Such annexation depended on an immense knowledge of the Region's nature and topography, the borders therefore were laid according to a natural and not engineering track. In accordance with the first article of such agreement, the political limit dividing the British areas from the French ones along the Palestinian-Syrian borders started from Samakh Town on Tiberius Lake, so that the political border should be drawn to the south of, and parallel to, the railway heading for the Lake. The border at Samakh Town would be fixed so that the two parties would be capable of establishing a port and a railway station which would allow a free access to Tiberius Lake.

International Borders between Palestine and Syria in 1920

Pursuant to Paris Accord of 1920 between Britain and France concerning the borders between Syria and Palestine, a mixed committee, headed by Lt. Colonel S. Newcamp of the British side and Colonel N. Poulet of the French, was set up to fix the borders. It issued its report on 03 February 1922 which defined an exact track of the borders referred to in such report as the new border line or "the international Palestinian borders with Lebanon and Syria". Pursuant to such definition, the borders were laid on ground starting from Ras Al-Nakoura to Al-Himmeh Area using 71 border points, 2 kms apart and each consisting of a stone pile 1.5 M high above the ground level.

The 1948-Armistice Lines and their complexities - paradoxes, 1948

The international lines prevailed and were recognized for many years, but the developments in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon imposed some amendments thereon, especially after the 1948-War broke out in the aftermath of the British mandate forces withdrawal from Palestine and the proclamation of The establishment of Israel in Palestine. Such a War led to the recognition of what was called the "armistice lines" between the Arab States surrounding Palestine and such Zionist entity. The 'buffer zones' as they were called appeared for the first time and in accordance with the Syrian-Israeli Armistice Accord signed on 20 July 1948. They stretched along some parts of the 1949-armistice line and the international border line. But the greater part was eliminated from the zones and disappeared from the armistice plans. A researcher, Ibrahim Abdulkareem, says that these buffer zones were distributed along three parts, northern, mid and southern, separated by distances whose armistice lines superposed with the international ones. Information about the areas of such buffer zones were inconsistent; about 54.4 Km2 according to the New York Times report of 21 July 1947, about 65.435 km2 to the UN calculations, about 62.8 km2 to the Israeli General Staff and about 60 km2 to other Israeli sources. Israel imposed an armistice accord, and occupied most area by force. Syria is holding on to the fact that these areas are part and parcel of its land, and thus it has the right to impose full sovereignty on them. these lands were always used in agriculture and pasture by the Syrian. Syria has not given up its right to reclaim such zones in any future negotiations with Israel.

Imposed Borders

Syrian and Israeli military officials did not reach an agreement concerning the buffer zones and the sovereignty thereon due to the Israeli trespassing which led to Israel's control of over 2/3rds of them. Consequently the imposed borders or the de facto borders appeared.

Violet Line and the Agreement of Disengagement of Forces, 1973

The 1973-War and the following war of attrition along the Syrian borders made the question of borders appear as a part in the whole Arab-Israeli conflict settlement process. This has been mentioned in the Syrian-Soviet Communiqué issued after the visit of Andrea Gromico, the Soviet Foreign Minister, to Damascus on 6 May 1974; "The Disengagement Agreement of forces in the Golan is a part of the general settlement process of the Middle East Question".

The Syrian stance grasped the point that Israel should withdraw beyond of the "Cease-fire Line" and that a buffer zone should be established between the two sides. The Syrians considered that restoration of Al-Qunaitra without the Golan would create a winding disengagement line, and would render the liberated Qunaitra City to only a small cavity dominated by the Heights from three sides; the north, south and west. The Israelis considered that keeping a sound strategic situation and securing their settlements in the Golan would be realized only if they still kept the Heights around the Qunaitra City.

After interference by Henry Kessinger, the then USA Secretary of State and his shuttle trips between Damascus and Tel Aviv, the Disengagement Agreement in the Golan was reached on 29 May 1974 leading thereby to stop the attrition war that lasted for 81 days; from 12 March 1974 to 31 May 1974.

Peace Negotiations and Borders

Since Madrid Conference for peace was convened until the Merry land negotiations, the question of Israeli withdrawal from the Golan was still sticking around the depth of the withdrawal, its time schedule and the new border lines. The Syrians were firmly grasping to the "borders of June 4th, 1967" whereas the Israelis proposed the international borders. A withdrawal to the June 4th, 1967 lines would, on the one hand, return to the Syrians the total gains it realized in the 1950's by releasing 1/3rd of the buffer zones from the Israeli scheme that planned to gradually occupy such zones, and deprive the Israeli army, on the other, from the great gains it achieved through the 1967-War, particularly because such matter was relative to lands of great importance due to their water resources, security and geographical factors as well.

Courtesy: NICE




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