BEIRUT: A recent Syrian threat to target rebels in Lebanon came in response to a French decision to arm those seeking to topple President Bashar Assad, the media coordinator for the Free Syrian Army said in remarks published Sunday.
“The letter sent from the Syrian Foreign Ministry to Lebanese authorities is in retaliation for a French decision to arm the rebels with missiles,” political and media coordinator Louay al-Meqdad told Lebanon’s An-Nahar newspaper.
Damascus, in a letter sent to Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry Thursday, warned Beirut it would attack Syrian rebels in Lebanon, reiterating its claims that arms and gunmen were being smuggled from the poorly delineated border.
The letter said Syrian forces were still exercising self-restraint by not striking “concentrations of armed gangs inside Lebanese territory in order to prevent them from crossing into Syrian territory.”
“But this will not last indefinitely,” the letter warned.
France and Britain said Thursday they wanted an EU arms embargo to Syria lifted, arguing Europe could not allow the Syrian people to be massacred. The EU rejected the proposal Friday but European Union foreign ministers will consider the issue again next week.
The FSA official also told An-Nahar that Syrian rebels would withdraw from border towns in Lebanon and return to Syria if the Lebanese Army could ensure proper control of the shared border.
“The Free Syria Army is ready to cease fire and draw back its units toward Syrian territories on condition that the Lebanese Army controls the joint border with Syria,” he told the Lebanese daily.
President Michel Sleiman stressed over the weekend that the Lebanese Army needed to prevent the infiltration of fighters across the border with Syria and said he had issued instructions to the military to arrest militants.
He also reiterated commitment to Lebanon’s self-disassociation policy toward developments in the region, particularly in Syria.
Violence has repeatedly spilled over into Lebanon as a result of the two-year-old crisis in Syria.