A prominent Lebanese Christian leader who fought and lost a bloody battle with Syrian troops in Lebanon in 1989 received a red carpet welcome Wednesday by Syrian President Bashar Assad. Michel Aoun's visit comes as the two countries are trying to establish harmonious and friendly relations. Apart from meeting Assad, Aoun will also hold talks with Syrian officials and leaders of Syria's Christian community over the next five days.
But the visit has been criticized by anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians, many of whom urged Aoun to cancel the trip. According to the AP, Aoun said his animosity ended when Syrian troops left Lebanon in 2005.
As acting prime minister and military commander in 1989, Aoun fought against Syrian troops in Lebanon. A year later, Syrian forces drove his troops out of their positions, forcing him into exile in France. He returned home in 2005, after Syria withdrew.
Later, Aoun entered an alliance with the pro-Syrian Lebanese movement Hizbullah
"I am very happy with this visit and hope it will be the beginning of a bright period in the history of Syrian-Lebanese relations," Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, quoted Aoun as saying shortly after arrival.
After a two-hour meeting with Assad, Aoun told reporters at the presidential palace: "We spoke with open hearts and minds in order to clear the Lebanese-Syrian conscience. The person who clings to the past cannot build a future."