Syria delayed formal appointment of its ambassador to Lebanon in a move that points to a slowdown in the implementation of the Aug. 13, 2008, agreement regarding the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. There were no explanations for the cause of the slowdown from officials of either country. Damascus earlier had pledged to name its ambassador before the end of last year.
A March 14 Forces official clarified that Lebanon was committed to taking all the steps required by the agreement, such as naming its candidate for ambassador and specifying the location of the Syrian embassy building. He added that to date, however, Lebanon has not received approval for its nominee and Syria has done nothing other than raise its flag at the location of its embassy.
Justifying the delay, Syrian allies said that Syrian officials were displeased by what they consider pressure to rush toward the exchange of ambassadors and also alarm over pressure from French President Sarkozy on President Al-Assad to achieve positive momentum to normalise Lebanese-Syrian relations.
According to Syrian allies, Damascus requested an extension of time to appoint its ambassador so that it would not be perceived as a response to French or other international pressure, adding that the war in Gaza presented an additional justification for the delay.
The delayed exchange of ambassadors, however, has not affected the exchange of official visits between Lebanon and Syria. After Damascus received Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud and Army commander General Jean Kahwaji, Lebanese Defence Minister Elias Murr was invited by his Syrian counterpart Major General Ali Turkmani for an official visit to discuss border security, the exchange of intelligence information and ways to enhance security coordination between their two countries to combat smuggling and terrorism.