Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
A Lebanese flag flies in front of the newly-opened Lebanon embassy building in Damascus.
Khaled Al-Hariri
A Lebanese flag flies in front of the newly-opened Lebanon embassy building in Damascus.

Lebanon opens embassy in Syria

Lebanon has opened its first ever embassy in Syria sealing the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

DAMASCUS // A Lebanese embassy opened in Damascus today after international pressure on the Syrian government to establish diplomatic ties and treat its smaller neighbour as a fully sovereign country. The Lebanese flag was raised on the premises in the centre of Damascus and the embassy is now staffed with a charge d'affaires, a Lebanese official said. The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since Britain and France carved them out of the remnants of the old Ottoman Empire in 1920. Syria, which withdrew its forces from Lebanon after a 29-year presence in 2005, opened an embassy in Beirut last year but has not named an ambassador. Lebanon has named Michel Khoury as its ambassador. The Damascus government has in the past resisted establishing diplomatic ties with Lebanon, saying the two countries had an especially close relationship.

But Syria's critics, including France and the United States, said by resisting normal diplomatic relations with Lebanon, Syria was trying to undermine its sovereignty. Syria dominated Lebanese politics for 30 years until the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri in 2005, which led to popular protests and the eventual withdrawal of Syrian forces. Anti-Syrian politicians, including Mr Hariri's son, Saad, have blamed Damascus for the killing of Mr Hariri. A United Nations investigation implicated high-level Syrian security officials in the incident but Syria denies involvement. "Opening the embassy puts the onus on the Syrians now to proceed with naming an ambassador. It is more than a symbolic step. Relations would have to go through official diplomatic channels, at least partially", said one Western diplomat in the Syrian capital. The Syrian foreign minister Walid al Moualem said Damascus would name an ambassador to Lebanon "very soon" but he did not indicate exactly when. The two countries also agreed last year to demarcate the border between them, but a committee to work on the issue has been slow in getting off the ground. The Syrian president Bashar al Assad issued a decree in October to open diplomatic relations with Lebanon after a Lebanese political crisis ended in May and relations improved between Syria and the new Lebanese government. *Reuters

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greeted by university students as he leaves Sistan University in Sistan and Baluchestan’s provincial capital of Zahedan on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

In Iran’s most troubled province, Rouhani hears pleas for change

Hassan Rounani aims to connect with residents of far-flung Sistan and Baluchestan province.

 Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Riyadh on March 3, 2007. Hassan Ammar / AFP Photo

Saudi Prince Bandar promised a victory he could not deliver

Saudi Arabia's controversial intelligence chief stepped down this week after rumours that his policies on Syria had fallen out of favour.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen. AFP Photo

The inner workings of Gulen’s ‘parallel state’

Fethullah Gulen's followers are accused of trying to push Turkey's prime minister from power.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National