(photo credit: AP)
Lebanon on Monday opened its first-ever embassy in Syria in another sign of improving ties between the long-feuding neighbors.
The opening of embassies in Beirut and Damascus sealed the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two countries for the first time since they gained independence from France in the 1940s. Syria opened an embassy in Beirut in December.
Relations between the long-feuding neighbors reached a turning point in August when the two agreed to establish ties and demarcate their contentious border. The agreement marked a final break in Syria's longtime dominance over its smaller neighbor.
Diplomatic ties with Syria has been a pressing demand by Lebanon's anti-Syrian factions, the United States and other Western countries.
Lebanon has named career diplomat Michel Khoury, currently Lebanon's ambassador to Cyprus, as its ambassador in Damascus. Khoury is expected to take office next month. Syria has yet to name its ambassador to Lebanon.
The Lebanese Embassy was opened with little fanfare. Lebanese Charge d'Affaires Rami Mourtadaha watched as the Lebanese flag was raised atop the embassy building in one of Damascus' upscale district next to the US Embassy.
A sign reading "The Embassy of the Lebanese Republic" was posted at the embassy's entrance.
No Syrian officials were seen at the opening ceremony.
Relations between the two Arab nations have been dominated by Syria since the 1970s, when Syria sent its army into Lebanon, which was engulfed in civil war.
Syria maintained control there for nearly 30 years. Its hold began to unravel after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a 2005 car bombing that many Lebanese blame on Syria - a charge Damascus denies.
After Hariri's assassination, Syria caved to US-led international pressure and Lebanese outrage and withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005.