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Syria decrees diplomatic ties with Lebanon

Latest update : 2008-10-14

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree on Tuesday to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon for the first time since the two Arab neighbours won independence from France in the 1940s.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a decree paving the way for the opening of full diplomatic ties with Lebanon, following six decades of independence, the official SANA news agency said on Tuesday.
  
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," it said.
  
Syria and Lebanon announced on August 13 their intention to open diplomatic ties for the first time since independence some 60 years ago, following up on a pledge made by Assad and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman in Paris in July.
  
In Beirut, a foreign ministry official said that Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh would head to Damascus on Wednesday to discuss details of the launch of ties.
  
"We expect to issue a statement setting the date and time as well as other details," the official told AFP.
  
Assad said last month he expected full diplomatic relations between Damascus and Beirut by the end of this year.
  
The next ambassador to Beirut will face "complicated files such as the cases of missing Syrians and Lebanese, border demarcation, and revision of certain accords" between the two states, the official daily Al-Watan said on Tuesday.
  
Damascus and Beirut have since 1991, a year after the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war, been tied by a treaty of friendship and cooperation on political, economic and security issues.
  
On Monday, US President George W. Bush had warned Syria that it must respect Lebanon's sovereignty and urged Damascus to open full diplomatic ties with Beirut.
  
His comments came as Washington closely watched Syrian troop movements near the border with Lebanon, which have raised concerns among anti-Damascus figures in Lebanon.
  
Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman issued a statement on Saturday, after contacts with Assad, accepting that the troop movements were aimed at tackling smuggling as stated by Damascus.
  
And French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has said the troops "are not threatening anyone".
  
In September, the Lebanese army revealed the deployment of 10,000 Syrian special forces in the Abbudiya region along the border between Lebanon and Syria.
  
The move came a month after a Damascus summit between Assad and Sleiman at which it was decided the neighbours would take formal steps to demarcate their borders in line with an agreement reached in Paris in July.
  
After three decades of domination, Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 2005 under pressure following the assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.
  
Damascus has consistently denied charges of involvement in the murder.

Date created : 2008-10-14

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