Lebanon’s “special relationship” with neighboring Syria will remain firm regardless of who is in power in Damascus, President Michel Sleiman said on Monday.
It is the first time the president has made a distinction between the Damascus regime and the country itself since a bloody conflict broke out in Syria, which has long influenced Lebanese political life.
“The special relationship with Syria is not dependent on any political side in Lebanon or who is ruling in Damascus,” Sleiman said in an interview with Lebanon’s National News Agency.
“The relationship between Lebanon and Syria is between two peoples and two states, and is historic,” he said. “We must correct the well-known defects, modify our agreements to benefit both countries, ensure their sovereignty and eliminate ambiguities.”
The conflict in Syria has exacerbated tensions between pro- and anti-Damascus political camps in Lebanon.
The Lebanese opposition -- pitted against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005 -- called last week for Syria’s ambassador to Beirut to be declared persona non grata.
Sleiman called for “a solution in Syria as soon as possible,” saying it was “up to our brothers in Syria to turn to dialogue that involves all parties.”
The Lebanese former army chief was chosen as president because of his reputation for neutrality between the feuding pro- and anti-Damascus factions.