Lebanon press divided on Hariri visit to Syria

BEIRUT- Lebanon's media was divided on Monday over Prime Minister Saad Hariri's landmark visit to Syria, with some saying it would thaw ties and others insisting it did little to re-establish trust.
"The majority of the Lebanese still don't trust relations with Syria," the Arab-language daily An-Nahar, close to Hariri's Western-backed parliamentary majority, said.

Saad Hariri and Bashar al-Assad
Saad Hariri and Bashar al-Assad
"This renewed 'friendship' involving a leader who was at odds with Syria will fail in establishing trust as long as there is no tangible evidence that (Damascus) treats Lebanon differently," the paper added.
Syria was the main powerbroker in its tiny neighbour for nearly three decades until April 2005 when it pulled out its troops from Lebanon under international and regional pressure, two months after the assassination of Hariri's father, ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Saad Hariri's fence-mending two-day visit at the weekend was his first trip to Syria since his father's killing which he and his US-backed allies in Beirut have blamed on Damascus.
However relations have been on the mend in the last year, with both countries establishing diplomatic ties for the first time and opening embassies in both capitals.
The French-language daily L'Orient-Le-Jour, also close to the majority, said Monday that future relations now hinge on how a number of outstanding issues are dealt with, notably the delineation of the border and the presence of pro-Syrian Palestinian groups in Lebanon.
"Only the future will tell the Lebanese how bilateral relations at the institutional level will be reinforced," it said.
Newspapers close to the Hezbollah-led coalition backed by Syria and Iran for their part said Hariri's brief visit marked a new chapter in relations.
"The 22 hours and 42 minutes (...) that Hariri spent in Syria were enough to usher in a new chapter in relations between the premier and the Syrian president as well as the two states," Al-Akhbar daily said.
For the As-Safir newspaper, the flight time between Beirut and Damascus was enough to bury the hatchet between the two neighbours.
"It took 25 minutes to turn the page on nearly five years of broken ties and tension between Saad Hariri and Damascus despite the deep wounds that remain," the paper said.
"Saad Hariri's plane landed ... on a golden opportunity to re-establish" relations, it said, while acknowledging that "the road ahead will be long and arduous".
Hariri said at the weekend that his unity government, which includes members of Hezbollah's coalition, wanted to take measures with Damascus to develop ties.
"We want privileged, sincere and honest relations ... in the interest of both countries and both peoples," the 39-year-old premier told a news conference in Damascus.
"We want to build ties with Syria based on positive points," he added, describing his visit during which he had three rounds of private talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as "historic".

Tuesday, December 22nd 2009

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