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Dispute Escalates in Lebanon over New Ambassador to Damascus

Dispute Escalates in Lebanon over New Ambassador to Damascus

Sunday, 29 October, 2017 - 08:00
Syrian refugees arrive in Wadi Hamayyed, on the outskirts of Lebanon's northeastern border town of Arsal, to board buses bound for the northwestern Syrian town of Idlib on Aug. 2. | AFP-JIJI

While the appointment of Saad Zakhia as Lebanon’s new ambassador to Syria drove condemnations from several parties, and placed the decision in the framework of “normalizing” relations with the Syrian regime, presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat they were surprised by the reactions.

“The diplomatic relations with Syria were never cut off for us to say now that such an appointment would restart relations with the regime, particularly that the nomination of the new ambassador came after the retirement of former ambassador Michel Khoury and after Farah Berri (daughter of Speaker Nabih Berri) held the office of Chargé d'affaires of the Lebanese embassy in Damascus,” the sources said.

They added that there is currently a Syrian ambassador to Lebanon who exerts normally his mission in Beirut.

Although the Lebanese Forces (LF) party had previously threatened to withdraw from the government on basis that the “March 8” team sought to bring back relations with the Syrian regime to its previous status, LF deputy Antoine Zahra told Asharq Al-Awsat that the appointment of an ambassador in Damascus was a ‘normal step,” particularly that Lebanon had never before withdrew its ambassador or froze diplomatic relations with Damascus.

Asked whether the appointment of Zakhia would speed up solving the issue of the Syrian refugees, which President Michel Aoun currently gives the utmost importance, the presidential sources said: “Any decision related to this issue overpasses the diplomatic matters as it involves international decisions.”

The sources added that the President was previously in contact with the international community and world powers to tackle the issue of refugees.

The Lebanese-Syrian relations had witnessed a regress following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, to later witness several regression phases before being almost cut off since the start of the Syrian war and a decision taken by the Lebanese government to distant itself from the crisis, while keeping bilateral relations at the diplomatic level.

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