SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, (Reuters) – Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in implicit criticism of Syria, said on Wednesday better relations with Damascus depended on an end to the political crisis in Lebanon.
“We call things by their names, in that Saudi-Egyptian relations with sister Syria do not appear to be at their best,” said Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad.
He was speaking after talks between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and visiting King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Mubarak and Abdullah sent low-level delegations to an Arab summit in Damascus last month to punish Syria for failing to persuade its allies in the Lebanese opposition to make a deal with the government in time for the meeting.
Lebanon has not had a president since November when the term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud expired. Lebanese leaders cannot agree on the arrangements for the new cabinet, which would take office once a new president is elected.
Awad said: “The two leaders (Mubarak and Abdullah) agreed that moving the situation in Lebanon is the key to an improvement in Arab relations.”
“Egypt and Saudi Arabia know who has a duty to do what so that a real rapprochement can take place. Improving the situation comes about by deeds, not words, not by expressions of good intentions,” he added.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have taken the side of the Lebanese government in the dispute, which reflects the regional conflict between the United States and its Lebanese government allies from one side, and Iran, Syria and the Shi’ite Muslim movement Hezbollah in Lebanon on the other.
The secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, who helped organise the Damascus summit, joined the Egyptian and Saudi delegations at the talks in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. But Awad said he was not aware of any new proposals that Moussa might have brought.
For more than a decade Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia formed a de facto alliance within the Arab world, dominating Arab counsels through their joint weight. Awad said the three were “basic pillars of common Arab action”.
But the alliance has unravelled in recent years, especially since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005. Hariri’s allies say the Syrians ordered him killed, a charge Syria denies.