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Latest update : 2008-07-13

Following a first meeting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that Syria and Lebanon are to open embassies in each other's capitals.

Syria and Lebanon have agreed to open embassies in each country's capital, marking a key step toward establishing diplomatic relations, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Saturday.
The decision was announced after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held a first meeting with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, whose election in May ended Lebanon's political crisis.
"For France, this is historic progress," said Sarkozy.
Assad confirmed that there would soon be an exchange of ambassadors.
Relations between Syria and Lebanon have been tense since the forced withdrawal of Syria's troops from the country in April 2005 after the assassination of former billionaire premier Rafiq Hariri.
Syria was widely blamed for the killing but denies involvement.
Assad last month said Damascus was ready to open an embassy in Lebanon once a unity government is formed and develops good relations with Syria.
Lebanon announced a 30-member national unity government on Friday tasked with resolving the country's worst political crisis since a 1975-1990 civil war.
"The French president welcomed the Syrian president's strong determination to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, following the formation of a national unity government," said a joint statement released by the Elysee palace, Sarkozy's office.
France and the United States have called on Lebanon and Syria to establish full diplomatic relations after Damascus ended nearly three decades of military presence in Lebanon.
Assad made a diplomatic comeback on Saturday when he was welcomed by Sarkozy on a visit to France that ended years of isolation.
The Syrian president is among more than 40 leaders who will launch a new Union for the Mediterranean at a summit in Paris on Sunday.

Date created : 2008-07-12