(Photo Credit: AP/Hussein Malla)
The outgoing Syrian Ambassador to Beirut, Ali Abdel Karim, said in a press conference following his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, that there was confusion about the visit of a Lebanese delegation to Syria.
Reports claimed Damascus had apologized for not being able to receive the Lebanese delegation due to prior engagements.
Last March, a dispute arose over the joint maritime borders between the two countries after Damascus granted a license to a Russian energy company to start offshore exploration operations in an area claimed by Lebanon.
According to the ambassador, he requested a letter to address the Syrian Foreign Ministry. He was notified of the letter late on Sunday, and Lebanon announced the date before discussing it with Syria.
“There was confusion in the communication between Presidents Aoun and Bashar al-Assad about the date of the delegation’s visit to Damascus,” Abdel Karim said.
Then he asked Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab, who heads the Lebanese delegation, to send a letter to set a date for a visit, but arrived late, so “the meeting was not canceled but was postponed due to the lack of time on the Syrian side.”
“The date was not set or discussed, but Lebanon announced it, and therefore the response came, and it was not canceled, but it was said to be agreed upon later,” Ali Abdel Karim said.
The ambassador explained that on Monday, Damascus sent a letter to Lebanon apologizing for not being able to receive a Lebanese delegation to delineate the maritime borders between them due to prior engagements.
According to a Syrian diplomatic source, the “time was not right” for such a visit.
On Monday, the Lebanese President announced that Beirut would send an official delegation to Syria on 26 October to discuss the demarcation of the maritime borders between the two countries.
A few days earlier, Lebanon achieved a “historic” agreement on the issue of restricting the maritime borders with Israel, which was widely welcomed regionally and internationally.
Many issues are exhausting the Lebanese government, which cannot control the prices of essential commodities such as fuel and gas amid confusion in the local market, due to the inability to control the dollar exchange rate.
What makes matters worse is the Lebanese parliament’s failure to re-elect the country’s president for the fourth time, as President Michel Aoun’s term is set to expire on 31 October.
Additionally, Lebanese officials have long complained about the issue of Syrian refugees who do not intend to return to their homeland, blaming them for the collapse of state institutions in the first place.
According to the Lebanese Minister of the Displaced, Issam Sharafeddine, approximately 6000 Syrian refugees will be returned to Syria starting Wednesday, 26 October.