The Islamic Post Blog

Syria and Lebanon to Form Stronger Diplomatic Ties by Khalida
October 3, 2008, 3:55 pm
Filed under: International, Sept/Oct Volume - 2008, World

By Abu Aasim, Islamic Post Staff Writer

Lebanese president Michel Sulaiman ended a landmark two-day trip to Syria recently aimed at reestablishing formal ties between the two neighbors for the first time in 60 years. During that time, neither nation has maintained an embassy in the other’s capital.
Among the issues reportedly discussed by Sulaiman with his Syrian counterpart, Bashir Al Asad, was the clear delineation on the common border along with the reestablishment of full diplomatic ties, which has been absent since both counties gained independence from France in 1943.
Sulaiman was previously Army Chief until he took up the post of president in May after the position was left vacant for some six months due to a political crisis that included several clashes between government forces and Hezbollah fighters. That crisis was eventually ended (though occasional violence still breaks out) with the Maronite Christian’s election to the presidency at mediations in Doha, Qatar.
Sulaiman has always enjoyed comfortable relations with the Syrians.  Even through the 30-year, Syrian occupation of Lebanon, which ended in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, which had been carried out by outside forces; many in Lebanon (and the west) put the blame on Syria. Many skeptics in the region say it only benefitted western interests. That assassination sparked flames of animosity from the Lebanese people towards Syria (in that year) and lead to the withdrawal of its troops shortly thereafter.
The foreign ministers of both countries have stated that the issue of border clarification is not disputed, agreeing that the water-rich Shebaa Farms region belongs to Lebanon.  They insist that the dispute lies in Israel’s occupation of those lands; which it took in the 1967 mid-east war, and claims actually are a part of Syria.
Many regional analysts see the visit as a very important step in the way of the eventual reestablishment of full diplomatic relations.
“I think this will be mostly symbolic,” Syrian-based analyst Andrew Tabler told Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. “The visit is supposed to clear the way for Lebanon and Syria to establish an embassy in each other’s capitals and that will take care of one aspect of relations and bring [the two nations] in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1680,” he said.  He added that “other issues would take longer.”
Resolution 1680 “strongly encourages Syria” to delineate the border with Lebanon and “establish diplomatic relations.”


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