BEIRUT— Relations between Syria and Lebanon, once lukewarm, continue to show signs of improvement. The latest rapprochement between the two countries took place on May 12, when Syrian military officials met in Beirut with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and army Cmdr. Gen. Jean Qahwaji.
Chief of Staff of the Syrian army Maj. Gen. Ali Habib was the first high-level military commander to visit Lebanon since Syria ended its 30-year occupation of Lebanon in 2005. The talks aimed to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the war on terrorism.
Habib said, "We should work together on issues of common concern, especially in the area of information exchange, to combat terrorism and prevent all forms of smuggling."
According to a 2008 UN report, considerable weapons smuggling occurs in the Lebanese-Syrian border area. Analysts said they hoped that the steadily improving diplomatic relations between the two countries will help to reduce it.
Habib was eager to discuss the Syrian commitment to provide military support to Lebanon. According to some sources, Habib is keen to offer training, equipment and ammunition to the Lebanese army. Both sides emphasised the need for the increased exchange of information and counter-terrorism initiatives.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman issued a statement after the meetings that expressed gratitude and thanks to Habib for the Syrian military’s offer of assistance to the Lebanese army. Suleiman confirmed that both armies are aiming to "confront terrorism and dubious schemes."
While some analysts characterised the meeting as an important step to strengthen dialogue between the two former adversaries, others say that much needs to be done to achieve real progress.
Sources: Agence France-Presse /