Syria moves closer to Lebanon diplomatically.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a decree to formally establish diplomatic relations for the first time with Lebanon as promised last August. This moves follows concerns over the deployment of 10,000 troops in the common borders in the last weeks. Syria claim they were meant to deter smuggling.
Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has issued a decree which paves the way for the opening of full diplomatic ties with Lebanon, the official Sana news agency said. The decree says that Damascus would open an embassy in neighbouring Lebanon for the first time since the two countries gained independence from France in the 1940s. The decree provides for "the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Lebanese republic and the creation of a diplomatic mission at ambassador level in the Lebanese capital Beirut," Sana reported on Tuesday. Lebanon and Syria agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations during a visit by Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese president, to Damascus in August. The AFP news agency reported that Fawzi Salloukh, Lebanon's foreign minister, would travel to Damascus on Wednesday to discuss the relationship. "We expect to issue a statement setting the date and time as well as other details," a foreign ministry official told AFP.
Friendship and co-operation
Syria's official Al-Watan newspaper said that Damascus' ambassador to Beirut would face a number of challenges such as "the cases of missing Syrians and Lebanese, border demarcation, and revision of certain accords". The two nations have been tied by a treaty of friendship and co-operation on political, economic and security issues since 1991, a year after the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war.
On Monday, George Bush, the US president, had told Syria that it must respect Lebanon's sovereignty and urged Damascus to open full diplomatic ties with Beirut. The warning came amid concerns over the deployment of 10,000 Syrian troops in the Abbudiya region along the border with its neighbour. However, Sleiman issued a statement on Saturday saying that he accepted the soldiers were in place to tackle smuggling. Syrian troops finally withdrew from Lebanon in 2005 after three decades of involvement in the country's long-running political strife.