x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Syria and Lebanon embassy agreement

Syria and Lebanon agreed to open embassies in each country's capitals - a key step in diplomatic relations.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, right, as he arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, right, as he arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

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 on Saturday. The decision was announced after Bashar al Assad, the Syrian president, held a first meeting with Lebanon's president, Michel Suleiman, following his election in May that ended Lebanon's political crisis. "For France, this is historic progress," said Mr Sarkozy. France and the United States have called on Lebanon and Syria to establish full diplomatic relations after Damascus pulled its troops out of Lebanon in 2005, ending nearly three decades of military presence. "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. Mr Assad made a diplomatic comeback on Saturday when he was welcomed by Mr Sarkozy on a visit to France that ended years of isolation. The Syrian president is among 43 leaders who will launch a new Union for the Mediterranean at a summit in Paris tomorrow. 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. Mr 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. *AFP