Annan to Seek Syria's 'Continuous Support' in Keeping Lebanon Calm
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will call on Syria to provide "continuous support" in keeping the situation in southern Lebanon calm, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Thursday.
There has been no serious conflict in southern Lebanon since Israeli troops withdrew on May 24th after a 22-year occupation.
The UN chief, who arrived in Damascus Thursday on the final leg of a Middle East tour, will also look for the possibility of capitalizing on the "positive momentum" created by Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon to move the peace process forward in the region, Eckhard said.
Eckhard was speaking to journalists after the UN chief met with Syrian foreign minister Farouq Shara.
Noting the "significant" role in Lebanon played by Syria, which has stationed troops in the country since the end of the Lebanese civil war, Eckhard said Annan will ask the Syrian government for its "continuous support" to "keep things calm there in southern Lebanon."
This would "allow Lebanon to gradually assume sovereignty and effective control over the south, over all its territory," he said.
"That's what the United Nations mission was sent there to do 22 years ago," but "they can't do it alone; we are going to need the support of all the government's of the region."
He said that "because Lebanon is still a volatile region, everyone's cooperation will be needed to keep Lebanon peaceful."
At the same time, Eckhard said Annan will be asking "whether the positive momentum created by Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon might not be capitalized on to put a little movement on either the Syrian or Palestinian (peace) track."
Annan arrived earlier Thursday in Damascus on the last stage of a Middle East tour in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
He had previously visited Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Annan is the first high-ranking official from overseas to come to Syria since the funeral of late president Hafez Assad, on June 13th - DAMASCUS (AFP)
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