Lebanon establishes embassy in Syria

Move marks establishment of full diplomatic relations for the first time since 1940s.

lebanon flag 88 (photo credit: )
lebanon flag 88
(photo credit: )
A Lebanese parliamentarian praised the opening of his county's first-ever embassy in Syria on Monday but warned that much remained to be done to improve bilateral relations between the two countries. Monday's move 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, which has dominated its small neighbor for nearly three decades, opened an embassy in Beirut in December. "Lebanon's independence and sovereignty are reaffirmed by this symbolic and yet practical action," the parliamentarian, who asked to remain anonymous, told .The Jerusalem Post. on Monday. "It's a major step on the way to implementing diplomatic relations and implementing the long-standing request of the Lebanese wishing to reinforce independence and sovereignty of Lebanon vis-à-vis Syria." But, the parliamentarian added, "it's a process" that does not end with the opening of mutual embassies. The relationship was still "marred by a number of outstanding issues," including the disappearance of hundreds of Lebanese citizens inside Syria whose fate is still not known, he said. In addition, he said a number of agreements that have been previously signed between Lebanon and Syria that should be revised or even annulled as the two countries embark on a new era of diplomatic relations, particularly the Lebanon-Syria Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation and Coordination Agreement. That 1991 agreement effectively legalized the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon and suggested the two countries closely coordinate their foreign policies to reflect "the shared destiny and interests of the two countries." Syria first sent its troops into Lebanon in the 1970s while the country was engulfed in civil war. It was only 30 years later, after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a 2005 car bombing, that Syria caved in to international pressure and Lebanese outrage withdrew its troops from Lebanon shortly afterwards. Many Lebanese accused Syria of having a hand in the assassination though Syria has denied the claims. Syria had long considered Lebanon an integral part of Syrian land, historically, and that its separation from Syria was a colonialist, Western imperialist act against the Syrian people, said Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. "I think that Syrians finally realized that this was not doing them much good in the court of world opinion," he said. AP contributed to this report.