Cablegate: Marking the Blue Line: Slow but Steady Progress
DE RUEHLB #1243/01 3240601
ZNR UUUUU ZZH(CCY ADXDCE593 MSI0421 532A)
P 200601Z NOV 09 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6088
INFO RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 3839
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 0105
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 3702
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0575
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1498
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 3967
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 3555
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 4238
RHMCSUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
UNCLAS BEIRUT 001243
C O R R E C T E D COPY (Marking of Para 1)
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PBTS PTER PINR MOPS KPKO UNSC IS LE
SUBJECT: MARKING THE BLUE LINE: SLOW BUT STEADY PROGRESS
REF: BEIRUT 512
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The UN Interim Force in Lebanon's (UNIFIL)
121-kilometer Blue Line (BL) marking program is moving along,
albeit slowly, with 25 of the proposed 198 markers now in
place. UNIFIL officials maintain that despite the slow pace,
the demarcation prevents inadvertent violations of UN
Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701 and helps resolve
those that do occur swiftly and peacefully, thus contributing
to stability on Lebanon's southern border. They explained
that the pace of the multi-step BL marking program, initiated
in 2007, is constrained by operational processes requiring
precision and three-party consensus. The current "de facto"
BL border delineation rests on the best available data
compiled from 1923 French and British Mandate maps and the
1949 Lebanon-Israel Armistice Demarcation Line. The
viability of the BL as a mutually recognized border in the
future is unclear given the lack of an permanent cease-fire
agreement between Israel and Lebanon. End Summary.
THE BLUE LINE IS NOT A BORDER
2. (U) In May 2000 the UN, through UNIFIL, took up the task
of identifying a line for the purpose of certifying complete
Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, as called for in UNSCRs 425
and 426. While Lebanon, Israel, and UNIFIL agreed the result
would not be considered a formal border demarcation, the aim
was to identify a line that closely conformed to the
internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon, based on
the best available cartographic and other documentary
evidence. This line, formally called the Line of Withdrawal,
subsequently came to be known as the Blue Line.
3. (U) Much of the Israeli-Lebanese border is not disputed
and was clearly marked on French and British Mandate maps
developed by the Occupied Enemy Territorial Administration
(OETA) following World War I. The line separating the two
mandates ran eastward from Ra's Naqoura on the Mediterranean,
more or less horizontally, terminating just north of the
Upper Galilee at Jisr al-Ghajar. A joint British-French
border commission report marking the border was approved in
1923, several months before the countries assumed their
mandatory responsibilities, and 38 boundary markers were
placed along the 49-mile-long boundary. Previous Lebanese
governments have recognized the legitimacy of the southern
border with Israel on many occasions, including in 1949 when
the "Armistice Demarcation Line" (ADL) was established
between the two states. The ADL (also know as the Green
Line) corresponded to the 1923 Mandate border, and the
armistice agreement contained no clause denying that the
existing border was an international border. The ADL was
thereafter treated as the "de jure" international border.
A PENNY OF PREVENTION
WORTH A POUND OF CURE
4. (SBU) "A Blue Line-marking program is a critical step in
implementing UNSCR 1701," declared Roxaneh Bazergan, UNIFIL
Political Officer for the Tripartite Secretariat, in a
November 13 update to the diplomatic corps. To emphasize her
point, Bazergan related several recent incidents, such as
farmers mistaking the border line, animal herds wandering
from one country to the other, and a mentally handicapped
Israeli nearly sparking a confrontation by crossing into
Lebanon. Bazeran recounted that after the cessation of
hostiliies between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and
Hizballah in 2006, UNIFIL commanders determined that
successful implementation of UNSCR 1701 would be eased if
unintentional violations of the unmarked BL could be
prevented. Subsequently, UNIFIL embarked on visibly
delineating the BL using 198 prominent points.
CURRENT BLUE LINE SNAPSHOT
5. (SBU) As of June 2009, Bazergan stated, 36.5 km of 121 km
had been demarcated, with work going on simultaneously in all
four predetermined sectors. Of the 198 proposed BL points,
25 barrels marking completed points have now been erected, 20
are under construction, 18 more coordinates are agreed upon
by all parties, and 6 proposed coordinates are under
evaluation. The IDF has nearly completed construction of a
"technical fence" in Israeli territory south of the BL,
Bazergan explained, to warn those approaching from inside
Israeli territory that they were approaching the BL.
Conversely, reaching this same fence from Lebanon in the
north would signify that the BL has been crossed in clear
violation of UNSCR 1701. Bazergan added that the LAF,
assisted by UNIFIL engineers, has begun construction of a
road paralleling the BL on the north. UNIFIL and the LAF
both believe the road essential to responding rapidly to
border incidents, she said, and it would also facilitate
CENTRIMETIC PRECISION REQUIRED
6. (SBU) Bazergan emphasized that UNIFIL's BL marking program
rests on four factors to achieve undisputed results:
-- Digital coordinates are logged using a Global Positioning
System (GPS) device.
-- Measurements are presented in centimeters for
-- UNIFIL proposes the final points to the two other parties.
-- No point is decided without consensus from all sides.
The marking process moves at a glacial pace because of the
centrimetric precision and consensus requirements, Bazergan
7. (SBU) When the initial staking process began in 2007, all
parties worked together on the ground, Bazergan related.
This mechanism initially built confidence, but it fell apart
after the IDF began to include additional security personnel.
The coordinate marking process is now done by separate LAF
and IDF teams with UNIFIL oversight in the following sequence:
-- Both sides create access to the planned points by clearing
vegetation and demining the area.
-- The LAF proposes initial coordinates extracted from
-- The IDF and UNIFIL mark their respective points. All
parties must achieve measurements within 50 cm of each other.
Coordinate stakes are marked blue for UNIFIL, yellow for the
IDF, and red/white for the LAF.
-- UNIFIL proposes a final "barycenter" or agreed upon
coordinate, based on the three stakes, and a concrete base is
constructed over the barycenter. The base's center must fall
within a one-meter radius of the barycenter coordinate. Due
to uneven terrain, base heights range from one to three
meters to increase visibility from a distance.
-- All three parties verify the base center, and a blue
barrel is placed on it to mark completion.
Blue Line demarcation cannot resolve some intractable
problems, Bazergan pointed out, citing the complications
related to UNIFIL's proposal for the IDF's withdrawal from
northern Ghajar (reftel).
WHAT IS THE BLUE LINE'S FUTURE?
8. (SBU) Bazergan could not predict when the demarcation
process will be completed, but she underscored that the
marking program contributes to stability in the south and its
completion will be a milestone in the successful
implementation of UNSCR 1701, despite slow progress. She
also declined to assess if the BL would be considered a "de
facto" border if and when UNIFIL departed, and she stressed
that the lack of a permanent cease-fire agreement between
Lebanon and Israel, as well as Hizballah's presence on the
southern border, complicates the negotiation of one.
Nevertheless, she undescored, UNIFIL's efforts to mark the
BL will lesen unintentional violations of UNSCR 1701.