Sleiman hails Sarkozy's 'brave move' to repair ties with Syria

October 21, 2008 - 0:0

President Michel Sleiman described his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy's openness toward Damascus as a ""brave move"" which helped end Lebanon's 18-month political crisis, the state-run National News Agency said. Sleiman held a half hour meeting with Sarkozy on the sidelines of the 12th Francophone summit in Quebec, Canada on Saturday.

The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, Culture Minister Tamam Salam, Minister of State Nassib Lahoud, and Sarkozy's diplomatic adviser Jean David Levitt.
Sarkozy reportedly asked Sleiman about the situation in Lebanon, voicing his appreciation of the president's role and expressing his ""definite will to help Lebanon.""
Sleiman briefed Sarkozy on ""recently achieved accomplishments which helped bolster stability"" in the country.
Sleiman also informed the French leader about the progress in establishing diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Syria.
""The issue has reached the stage of choosing a venue for the Syrian embassy in Beirut,"" Sleiman told Sarkozy.
""The two ambassadors would be accredited before end of the year,"" he added.
Lebanon and Syria first agreed on establishing diplomatic ties during the Mediterranean Union summit in Paris last July.
The decision, taken jointly by Sleiman and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad, was then announced by Sarkozy.
Sleiman later visited Damascus in September and agreed with Assad to establish diplomatic ties before the end of the year. Last week, the foreign ministers of the two neighbors signed an official agreement to establish such ties.
Sarkozy also inquired about the fate of the new election law and the shape and status of the Lebanese Armed Forces. Sleiman reportedly assured him that the law has been recently ratified by Parliament, adding that next year's legislative election would be held on time.
Sleiman also assured Sarkozy that the Lebanese army was in good shape following the appointment of a new commander, General Jean Kahwaji.
The two presidents also discussed the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, stressing the need to prevent the resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon.
Sarkozy concluded his meeting with Sleiman by inviting him to visit to France in February.
For his part, Sleiman also invited the French leader to visit Beirut in the aftermath of next year's elections. Sarkozy's first ever visit to Lebanon was a five-hour trip last June.
Also on Saturday, Sleiman met with Algerian President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika on the sidelines of the summit.
He also received a phone call from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who congratulated him for the establishing of diplomatic ties between Beirut and Damascus.
""Our people expect us to cooperate in order to achieve peace ... and we are positive that the Francophone summit will not spare an effort to support a stable, independent, and sovereign Lebanon,"" he said.
The summit's final statement later voiced its support for Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty, independence and stability.
The president's first challenge would be sponsoring an intra-Christian reconciliation between the Lebanese Forces (LF) and the Marada Movement before preparing to host the second round of Lebanese national dialogue on November 5. The first round was held at the Presidential Palace in mid-September.
In a related development, Lebanese Forces lawmaker George Adwan said over the weekend that a reconciliation meeting between the LF and the Marada was due to take place this week.
Adwan said the meeting would be held under the auspices of Sleiman, grouping LF boss Samir Geagea, Marada chief Suleiman Franjieh and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun. Adwan added that Phalange Party head Amin Gemayel was also welcome to attend the meeting.
Meanwhile, Geagea told Al-Jazeera satellite news television that his upcoming meeting with Franjieh will focus on ending security tensions in the North. ""We need to put an end to the tension in the North ... this is why I questioned the purpose of Aoun's participation in the meeting since he has nothing to do with such tension,"" Geagea said, referring to a recent LF-Marada clash in the northern town of Bsarma in which two people were killed.
The LF leader commented on the ongoing reconciliation efforts between Hezbullah and the Progressive Socialist Party and said such rapprochement only aimed at restoring calm without implying the need to form new political alliances.
He was referring to a series of meetings that grouped Hezbullah and PSP representatives.
The reconciliation efforts could be later crowned by a meeting between PSP leader Walid Jumblatt and Hezbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Jumblatt, who visited Cairo on Sunday to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other officials, said last week that he preferred not to hold a senior meeting with Hezbullah officials until a meeting between Nasrallah and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri takes place. The meeting has reportedly been delayed by security arrangements.