Syrian FM in Beirut in bid to cement relations
Syria's foreign minister was visiting Beirut on Monday on a tour set to usher in a new page in relations. Walid Muallem was to deliver an invitation to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman from his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad to visit Damascus.
Lebanon and Syria said earlier this month that they had decided to establish diplomatic relations and planned to open embassies in both capitals for the first time since independence from French colonial rule more than 60 years ago. "This visit will open a new era in bilateral relations, following the tensions of the last three years," Muallem told Lebanon's As-Safir daily.
"We hope to overcome these tensions and look forward to brotherly cooperation between Syria and Lebanon," he added. "We have all the conditions needed to succeed."
Muallem, who last visited Beirut on May 25 when Sleiman was elected, said diplomatic ties must have a solid base and take into account the interests of both countries.
"It is expected that the question of diplomatic relations will be raised during the visit. We hope it will mark a new step in Syrian-Lebanese ties," said Syria's Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government. It said that during his visit Muallem would discuss "ways of improving relations given the favorable circumstances with the election of a consensus president in Lebanon and the formation of a national unity government."