Lebanese officials meet with Syrian president for first time since start of war
During the meeting, Assad thanked Lebanon and all other Arab countries that provided aid to Syria after the earthquake and risked being subjected to US Caesar Act sanctions by doing so
By News Desk - February 09 2023

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets a Lebanese delegation in Damascus. (Photo credit: SANA)

A high-level ministerial delegation from Lebanon visited Syria on 8 February to discuss relief efforts for the country and meet with President Bashar al-Assad following the devastating 6 February earthquake that left over 16,000 Syrian and Turkish people dead.

The Lebanese delegation was received by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. Upon its arrival, it expressed “solidarity with the Syrian people in this plight” and vowed to offer all capabilities “to assist in the relief efforts,” according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA).

It was headed by Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, who was accompanied by several other ministers and officials, including the Minister for Social Affairs, Hector Hajjar, and the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Fadi Sinan.

While addressing the Syrian Foreign Ministry, the Lebanese officials expressed their condolences for the victims and promised to stand by Syria in its time of need as it “stood by Lebanon in its difficult times.”

The officials then made their way to Damascus’ Muhajireen Palace, where they were received “one by one” by the Syrian president.

During their meeting, Assad expressed “confidence in [Syria’s] ability to overcome the ordeal.” He then went over the efforts of other Arab countries that provided relief aid for Syria, which include Algeria, Egypt, and Iraq. The Syrian president expressed gratitude for this aid, which was sent from Lebanon through the Lebanese army, civil defense, and red cross.

This gratitude comes in light of the fact “that many countries [including Lebanon] are under American pressure” and that aid has been making its way to Syria from other Arab countries in disregard of US-imposed Caesar Act sanctions, which many have warned pose a grave threat to the humanitarian situation in Syria, particularly following the earthquake.

“The countries of the region realize that America is a friend and ally to nobody … so we appreciate [and take into consideration] the circumstances [of all these countries],” Assad added.

This is the second high level delegation to visit Syria from Lebanon since the start of the war, the first of which took place in September 2021 and related to a US-sponsored energy cooperation deal that never materialized.

However, this was the first time a Lebanese official delegation met with the Syrian president since the start of the US-backed 11-year war, representing warm and brotherly ties between the two countries despite a tense history.

On 7 February, Lebanese Minister of Public Works Ali Hamieh – who was part of the delegation – announced that “the ports of Beirut and Tripoli, as well as Beirut airport, are exempt from all fees and taxes for the delivery of any aid to Syria.”

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