Important Step Towards Strengthening Syrian-Lebanese Ties

  • 22 December 2008

The announcement made by the Lebanese government last Saturday about the appointment of the first Lebanese ambassador to Syria reveals the important progress made towards enhancing relations between Beirut and Damascus after a long period of discord between the countries following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The fallout led to greater animosity and tensions, despite the historic ties between Syria and Lebanon. However, the recent step is a positive development, as it reflects growing warmth in relations  that was also evident from the frequent visits of Lebanese officials to Damascus, particularly the one by the Lebanese President. The thaw in relations between the two countries was conspicuous since May this year, and the formal announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations by both Lebanese and Syrian sides followed a decree issued by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in October for the establishment of diplomatic ties with Lebanon after a long standoff.

Lebanon's announcement about the appointment of an ambassador to Syria confirms the willingness of the Lebanese government to strengthen its ties with Syria in a manner that would contribute to enhancing the interests of both parties, and would provide peace and stability for both Lebanon and Syria, so that both countries could seriously address the demands of the present times that are currently undergoing a set of economic and political changes at the regional and international levels, which would beneficially reflect not only on Syria and Lebanon, but in all parts of the world. The step also provides the means to eliminate any attempts by foreign interference to sabotage all that has been achieved in terms of progress between the two countries, and has set down the foundations for a new phase of cooperation based on international norms and standards. In addition, it is an encouraging step on the part of Lebanon towards Syria as it would speed up measures for the exchange of ambassadors before the end of the year and resolve those pending problems that have been accumulating over the years.

The diplomatic exchange between Syria and Lebanon is considered a great achievement. The Lebanese President, Michel Suleiman, described his last visit to Damascus as setting the foundation for brotherly and honest relations between the two countries. This was reconfirmed by the Lebanese Minister of the Interior, when he said that Syrian–Lebanese relations had become strong and institutionalized, and that Lebanese should not assume that relations with Syria are as they were in the past. In the light of these developments, Damascus and Beirut should establish full diplomatic relations on a firm basis that would eliminate all the problematic issues that have built up over the decades. No space should be left for any misunderstandings or doubts that might crop up in the future, so that positive results are achieved on issues like the defining of borders, peace with Israel and other contentious issues. A common framework of cooperation has to be achieved to deepen Syrian–Lebanese relations in a manner that covers and reinvigorates the economic, commercial, tourism-related and cultural agreements that have been signed between the two countries.