The United Nations has called on Damascus to end its incursions into Lebanon, which have left three Syrians dead in recent weeks, warning the raids could ignite tensions in the region.
“I strongly deplore the violent incursions and raids into Lebanese towns and villages by Syrian security forces that resulted in death and injury,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a report release late Wednesday.
“I call upon the government of the Syrian Arab Republic immediately to cease all such incursions and to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ban added.
“These incursions and the ongoing crisis in Syria carry the potential of igniting further tensions inside Lebanon and beyond.”
Syrian tanks in recent weeks have crossed into disputed border areas and Lebanese territory, shooting dead three Syrian citizens. The incursions have raised fears of the revolt against the regime in Damascus spilling over into Lebanon.
Ban also urged the two countries to finalise the delineation of a Lebanese-Syrian border, parts of which remain disputed, saying the move was “an essential step to allow for proper border control”.
Lebanese officials estimate some 5,000 Syrians, including deserting soldiers and opposition members, have sought refuge in Lebanon since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad erupted in March.
Ban’s comments came in a twice-yearly report on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted in 2004, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon and the restoration of Lebanon’s “territorial integrity, full sovereignty and political independence”.
Syria first sent it troops into Lebanon months after the outbreak of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, and kept them deployed in it smaller neighbour for 29 years.
Bashar al-Assad withdrew forces from Beirut in the aftermath of the 2005 assassination of billionaire former premier Rafiq Hariri, whose killing was initially widely blamed on Syria.