BEIRUT, (AFP) – Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman will visit Damascus next week for talks with Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, as the two neighbours move to establish diplomatic ties, an official said on Tuesday.
“The summit will be held on August 13,” an official from the presidential palace told AFP.
Relations have been tense since Syria pulled out its troops from Lebanon in 2005 in the aftermath of the assassination of Lebanese billionaire former premier Rafiq Hariri, ending a three-decade military presence.
Syria was widely blamed for the killing but denies involvement and the issue remains a key bone of contention between the two countries.
It will be Sleiman’s first official visit to Syria and the first meeting with Assad since the two leaders announced in Paris last month that they planned to establish ties.
The two countries have never had official diplomatic relations and the move is widely seen as a necessary step for Syrian recognition of Lebanese sovereignty.
Lebanon’s new national unity cabinet, in which the Syrian-backed opposition holds veto power, adopted a policy statement on Monday calling for “brotherly relations with Syria on the basis of mutual respect of sovereignty and the independence of both countries.”
It also called for the demarcation of borders.
A parliamentary vote of confidence on the manifesto will allow the government to begin to function officially. One press report said the vote would be held next Monday although this has yet to be officially confirmed.