Neighbours agree to establish diplomatic ties
Lebanon's foreign minister said he expects diplomatic ties with Syria to be
fully established and ambassadors to be exchanged within two months.
Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said the Cabinet will give its approval on the
diplomatic ties on Thursday. Later, it will issue a separate decree for an
embassy in Syria, he said.
Mr Salloukh spoke two days after the presidents of Lebanon and Syria agreed to
establish full diplomatic ties for the first time since the two countries gained
independence from France more than 60 years ago.
The two countries also agreed to negotiate the demarcation of their border, a
longtime demand of the Lebanese as they seek to normalise relations with their
long dominant larger neighbour.
Once formal approval has been made by both countries, their foreign ministers
will work out an agreement finalizing the deal, Mr Salloukh said. He said he
expected that to take one to two months.
The agreements on diplomatic ties and the border were announced during a
landmark visit by President Michel Suleiman to Damascus for talks with Syrian
President Bashar Assad. It was the first visit by a Lebanese head of state in
Syria and Lebanon have not had official diplomatic ties since they became
independent from France in the 1940s, and there have not been any official
attempts to define the border.
Many Lebanese saw that as a sign Syria did not recognise Lebanon's sovereignty
and harboured designs to dominate it.
``The Lebanese-Syrian summit was meant to re-establish brotherly and genuine
relations between the two countries,'' Mr Suleiman said in a statement released
by his office.
Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who has long accused Syria of interfering in
Lebanon's internal politics, has praised the decision on diplomatic ties.
Mr Suleiman's visit to Damascus was ``important on the road to building equal
and genuine Lebanese-Syrian relations,'' Mr Saniora said at a Cabinet meeting on