Syrian President to Ankara Next Week
By Nabil Al Mulhem
Albawaba.com - Damascus
Syrian President Bashar Assad will head for Turkey in the coming days, according to well-informed Syrian sources, who said the visit will probably take place during next week.
According to the sources, who asked to remain unnamed, the visit comes in the context of the rapprochement between the two neighbors who have recently exchanged diplomatic missions. Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam also paid a visit to Ankara in December, which was seen by observers as a prelude to Assad’s move.
Following Khaddam, a Syrian media delegation met in Ankara with senior Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.
Assad’s visit to Turkey is expected to be one leg in a regional tour that will include Iran, too. He seeks to bring closer his country’s views on the Arab-Israeli conflict to those of his neighbors, according to the sources, who added that the president intends to conclude economic arrangements with these countries, especially Turkey, due to its close economic ties with Europe.
However, a Syrian official told Albawaba.com that Lebanon is not on the list of Assad’s destinations. He denied reports of an imminent visit to Beirut where the president will meet with Maronite cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, who has launched a severe attack on the Syrian troops’ presence in his country, calling for their redeployment.
The sources said that in case of an official visit by Assad to Beirut, he will meet with a number of officials and political figures, including the cardinal.
Asked about the possibility of Nasrallah’s coming to Damascus during the expected visit by Pope John Paul II to Syria in the spring, the official said that his country would warmly receive the religious leader and that “he will be treated according to his high status.” – Albawaba.com