Lebanon News

Aoun pays visit to Assad, urges greater bilateral cooperation

BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar Assad and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun emphasized on Wednesday the importance of promoting Lebanese-Syrian bilateral ties and cooperation between both countries on the regional and international levels. Aoun’s visit to Syria came as the Lebanese Parliament was evaluating the Cabinet policy statement prior to granting the new national unity government a vote of confidence. The new Cabinet was formed after four months of negotiations between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and opposition groups, including the FPM and its allies, Hizbullah and Amal Movement. 
The Cabinet formation was followed by President Michel Sleiman’s visit to Syria. Hariri is expected to hold talks with Assad after his government is granted the vote of confidence. 
However, on Monday, the Syrian judiciary sent a warrant to the Lebanese judiciary demanding that several Lebanese officials appear before the first investigating judge in Damascus to be questioned in a lawsuit filed by the former head of Lebanon’s General Security Jamil Sayyed. The lawsuit accuses them of slander and falsifying witnesses during investigations by the Special Tribunal to Lebanon into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination. 
If investigations showed that legal procedures were violated and Lebanon’s independence was at risk, the warrant could be returned to Syria. 
The warrant has been described by several MPs of Hariri’s bloc as a step aimed at undermining the premier’s position ahead of his visit to Syria. 
Media reports said Tuesday that Hariri informed Marada Movement leader Sleiman Franjieh, a close ally to Syria, that he refused to visit Damascus if not accompanied by one or several of the figures included in the judiciary warrant. 
Regional power brokers Syria and Saudi Arabia have played a pivotal role in facilitating an agreement between Lebanon’s parliamentary majority and opposition on the formation of a cabinet. 
The Syrian president’s top aide Bouthaina Shaaban said Assad and Aoun stressed during their meeting the need to boost cooperation between Lebanon and Syria on all levels in order to attain special bilateral ties which benefit both countries.
“Lebanon’s security and stability reflects Syria’s stability and security,” Shaaban said. 
Shaaban said Hariri’s visit to Syria has not yet been scheduled. She added that the summons were issued upon Sayyed’s personal request and unrelated to Syria’s government. 
“President Assad commended during the meeting on General Aoun’s national role on the Lebanese domestic scene given the latter’s efforts to safeguard Lebanon’s interests above all considerations and strengthen national unity as well as his support to establish strong and good ties between both countries,” the statement issued by the Syrian presidency added. 
Similarly, Aoun praised Assad’s stances toward Lebanon and his support for the country’s unity, independence and sovereignty, as well as his keenness to promote bilateral ties. 
Assad and Aoun’s talks tackled the latest developments on the Arab and international scene while underscoring the importance of cooperation with neighboring countries to gather international support for the Palestinian cause and put an end to Israeli crimes against its people. Later on Wednesday afternoon, Aoun returned from Damascus to Beirut. 
In one of the closing rounds of the 1975-1990 Civil War in Lebanon, Aoun, as the head of a disputed Christian government, waged a fierce “war of liberation” against Syrian forces deployed in the country. 
Forced out of the Presidential Palace in October 1990, he went into exile in France and only returned to Lebanon in May 2005, a month after the end of Syria’s 29-year military presence.





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