Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Syria offers relations with Lebanon to encourage U.S. ties

Syria's long overdue recognition of Lebanon's sovereignty would be a lot more positive if it was offered because Damascus finally understands how illogical and self-damaging it is to refuse to talk with your neighbors. But that is not yet the case. Syria still has a lot of explaining to do about its 29-year military occupation of Lebanon and its longer-term and, apparently, continuing interference in Lebanese affairs. Maybe Syria has fessed up about the past to the United States, which has been trying to entice Damascus to break away from radical Arab states and join the broader community of nations. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack welcomed the planned exchange of ambassadors between Syria and Lebanon but said Syria had a lot more work to do. "That's a positive step," McCormack told reporters in Washington, according to the Reuters international news service. "The Syrian government has previously said that it's going to establish diplomatic ties and exchange ambassadors, set up an embassy." But if Lebanon, which still blames Syria for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005, suspicions echoed by a United Nations investigation, can make up with Damascus, maybe there's hope for Israel. Syria is so committed to improving relations with the United States it has been making moves to engage Israel, including negotiating through Turkey. But whether Damascus wants actual peace or is just maneuvering to try to reacquire the Golan Heights, which it lost in its ill-fated attack on Israel in 1967, is still to be seen. Syria and Lebanon were created by Britain and France after the collapse of the Ottoman empire, and have never had diplomatic relations, Reuters said.

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