Beirut, Cairo at Odds over Disputed Border Farms

Published May 18th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Egypt said Wednesday that the dispute over the Shebaa Farms Lebanon demands from Israel should not be given so much importance, according to the Daily Star. 

The Lebanese English daily quoted Egyptian prime minister Atef Ebeid as saying in Beirut “the problem could be addressed in bilateral negotiations after the [Israeli] pullout {from south Lebanon.]”  

However, Ebeid said his country will support Lebanon in its quest to recover the Farms.  

The Egyptian premiere arrived in Beirut early Wednesday heading a high-level delegation on a three-day visit.  

After an official welcoming ceremony headed by his Lebanese counterpart Salim Hoss, the two premiers headed to the Grand Serail for an hour-long tete-a-tete before being joined by senior officials from both countries for the first session of the Higher Lebanese-Egyptian Joint Committee.  

In his opening speech, Ebeid reiterated that Egypt would stand "strongly and without reservation alongside efforts being exerted to maintain Lebanon's independence and to safeguard its soil."  

The Egyptian premier also said that his country would take the lead in rebuilding what was destroyed in the country and "in what Lebanon aspires to achieve in terms of its reconstruction. Our men are your men and will do whatever is needed," he said.  

Hoss' statement began by recounting the damage inflicted by Israeli raids on Lebanese infrastructure. He also said the country was eagerly looking forward to Israel's withdrawal, adding that he expected a pullout to take place much sooner than July 7.  

Addressing Ebeid, Hoss said the country was facing "an issue in the framework of Israel's withdrawal."  

"We say that if Israel withdraws and the Shebaa Farms remain occupied, then Israel would not be implementing Resolution 425 but simply redeploying its forces," Hoss said.  

During the news conference later, Egyptian Information Minister Safwat Sharif and his counterpart Anwar Khalil briefed reporters on the details of the meeting.  

Sharif's comments were not exactly what Lebanese officials anticipated, said the paper. Asked what his country's position was regarding the Shebaa Farms, Sharif said: "Egypt's position is clear, which is in support of the implementation of Resolutions 425 and 426. The interpretations of these resolutions, however, are left for negotiations between the concerned parties."  

As an example, Sharif pointed out that Egypt was finally able to recover Taba following negotiations and reliance on international arbitration which was concluded several years after the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was concluded.  

Although the Joint Committee is supposed to meet every six months, they last met in September 1998 due to Cabinet reshuffles in both countries.  

The preparatory committee, was convened for two days starting last Monday and was headed by Egyptian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ahmed Darsh, and Economy and Trade Minister Nasser Saidi. The committee recommended several agreements and protocols.  

One recommendation called for an increased flow of trade to be accomplished by removing obstacles related to the quality of goods.  

Agricultural trade between the two countries has slowed because both Lebanon and Egypt have at times refused products and goods on the grounds that they were not up to standard. Lebanon's refusal of Egyptian potatoes and Egypt's turning back Lebanese apples are prominent examples – Albawaba.com  

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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