Lebanon-Syrian summit to focus on diplomatic ties

A Syrian-Lebanese summit scheduled for August 13 and 14 is to focus on the establishment for the first time of diplomatic relations including the opening of embassies between the two countries, a Lebanese government source said Tuesday.

"The establishment of diplomatic relations between Damascus and Beirut, and the opening of embassies in each other's country for the first time in their history will be at the focus of the discussions between the two state leaders," said the Lebanese official, who requested anonymity.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman is to pay a two-day visit to Syria where he will meet with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, dpa reported.

Links between Damascus, which for three decades dominated Lebanon until its troop withdrawal in April 2005, and Beirut soured after the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.

Syria with its Lebanese allies was openly accused by Hariri's allies of plotting his murder, but Damascus continues to deny this.

The official said the fate of a Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council and the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty signed in 1991 between both countries would also top the agenda of the Damascus talks.

The Lebanese-Syrian Friendship Treaty calls for cooperation and coordination at the highest levels "in all fields, including political, economic, security, educational, scientific, and others."

It also mandates the establishment of a Higher Council composed of the presidents, prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, and speakers of parliament of both countries.

The council is to set policies of cooperation and coordination for the two countries, and its decisions "are binding and effective" on both countries.

In addition, the Treaty requires the setting up of joint ministerial committees and the signing of bilateral agreements covering economic, defence, educational and other affairs.

The anti-Syrian political camp which holds the majority in Lebanon's parliament wants both the treaty and the council scrapped.

According to the official, the demarcation of borders between Syria and Lebanon will also be discussed as well as the fate of the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, where Beirut claims sovereignty with the consent of Damascus.

Shebaa was captured by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war. Israel insists that Shebaa is Syrian territory and its fate should be discussed in future peace talks with Damascus.

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