A Syrian decision to redeploy its troops in Lebanon to an area near the Syrian border will improve ties between the two countries, the Lebanese press said Saturday.
On Friday, the speaker of the Lebanese parliament and a close ally of Syria, Nabih Berri, announced that Damascus would redeploy its troops to the Bekaa valley.
That redeployment was envisioned in the 1989 Taef agreement, which brought an end to Lebanon's 15-year-long civil war, but has never been carried out.
The presence in Lebanon of 35,000 Syrian troops has recently become a contentious issue in Lebanese politics, which tend to be dominated by Syria.
A call for Syrian military withdrawal was made in September by Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of Lebanon's sizeable Maronite Christian minority, and it was at Sfeir's home, following a Friday meeting with the patriarch, that Berri made the announcement.
The French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour highlighted the place and timing of the announcement, saying it suggested that there are "solid grounds of hope for a serene, sincere and responsible dialogue among all parties on the thorny question of the Syrian military presence in Lebanon."
Major daily An-Nahar said the announcement "opens the way for a rebalancing of Syrian-Lebanese relations ... and to a reinforcement of ties between the two countries."
As-Safir, citing a source close to Damascus, said the Syrian leadership is "seeking to reassure all Lebanese of their intentions ... to apply the Taef accord" and to "establish good relations with all Lebanese," particularly Sfeir.
The newspaper said Berri was giving recognition to the "importance of the Maronite patriarchate and of its role in the consolidation of Lebanese national unity" and had "pulled the rug out from under those who seek to poison relations" between the two countries.
But the newspaper also pointed out that Syria rejects the views of those who say Syria has "given in because of weakness, and that this development serves the interests of Israel and of powers that want to maintain their domination over the region" -- BEIRUT (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)