Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab urged Saturday the need to find a solution to the demarcation of Lebanese-Syrian borders, local media reported.
“We need to draw borders with Syria which would facilitate the deployment of the Lebanese army in these areas and the control of illegal borders between the two countries,” Bou Saab was quoted as saying by Elnashra, an online independent newspaper.
Bou Saab said that the control of illegal borders is possible but it needs a political solution with the Syrian government.
Illegal borders have been used in the past years by merchants in Lebanon to smuggle products without paying customs and taxes which cost the treasury billions of dollars in losses from tax revenues.
The issue of negotiating with Syria is complicated by political divisions over the nature of ties , which have been chilled since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011 and the subsequent civil war.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, as well as the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party, refuses to hold direct talks with Damascus until a political solution to the Syrian war is found. The Free Patriotic Movement – which Bou Saab belongs to – as well as Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, says ties with Damascus should return to normal.
Lebanon is currently participating in U.S.-mediated negotiations with Israel over the demarcation of the southern maritime border, of which about 860 square kilometers are disputed, as well as the land border.
A consortium of three oil and gas companies qualified last year for exploratory drilling in two maritime oil blocs, including one that borders Israeli waters. The consortium is looking to drill its first exploratory well by December in Bloc 4, off the coast of Beirut.
Lebanon has not yet awarded the rights to explore in waters bordering Syrian territory.