Summit Meeting
Photo: Reuters

Hariri, Assad meet; vow to boost ties

Syria, Lebanon end tensions as President Assad, Prime Minister Hariri meet in Damascus; two leaders agree to boost strategic ties, Hariri says good relationship to help maintain united Arab front against Israel

Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri ended their meeting with an agreement to boost the strategic cooperation between Beirut and Damascus, the Syrian news agency SANA reported Saturday.


According to the report, the Lebanese PM said that good ties between the two states would contribute to defending Lebanon and to the maintenance of a united Arab Front in the ongoing struggle against Israel.

Hariri also reportedly noted that "Israel violates the rights of Arabs" during the session.

Assad and Hariri (Photo: AP)


Saturday's "constructive" talks ended five years of animosity between Syria and a broad political alliance led by Hariri.


Assad warmly welcomed the prime minister at the entrance of the presidential palace in Damascus after Hariri, a billionaire businessman, flew to the Syrian capital on his private jet.


"I can say that the dialogue was constructive and the atmosphere was cordial," Buthaina Shaaban, an Assad aide, told reporters after a first round of talks that lasted three hours.


She said the meeting had broken the ice between the two leaders who discussed all issues in a "frank, transparent and cordial climate".


Syria's official SANA news agency said the two leaders discussed how to turn the page on recent turmoil in bilateral relations. It quoted Hariri as saying he was looking for "real and strategic ties with Syria".


Lebanese political sources expect Assad and Hariri to agree on opening a new page in their personal relationship and on strengthening cooperation between their governments to guarantee Lebanon's stability.

"At the end of the day, Syria is the nearest country to us. God willing this visit will bring stability and security to Lebanon," Bahia al-Hariri, a member of the Lebanese parliament and the premier's aunt, said in Lebanon.


Outrage in Lebanon over the assassination and international pressure forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in April 2005, ending three decades of military presence in its smaller neighbour.


Saad al-Hariri's coalition has often clashed in the past with Syria's allies in Lebanon, led by the powerful Iranian-backed group Hezbollah, and the political crisis has threatened to plunge Lebanon into a new civil war.


Rapprochement between Syria and Saudi Arabia, which backs Hariri, earlier this year eased tension and allowed Hariri, who won a parliamentary election in June, to form a unity government that includes Hezbollah and other Damascus allies.


Hezbollah, which fought a war against Israel in 2006, is the only armed group in Lebanon. It is considered a terrorist group by Washington but Hariri's government has said it is a legitimate force whose aim is to end Israeli occupation of some Lebanese territory.


Hariri, accompanied by only one senior aide, will spend the night in the Syrian capital and hold further talks with Assad and other senior officials before returning to Beirut on Sunday.


Reuters contributed to story 


פרסום ראשון: 12.19.09, 22:52
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