Let's all be friends

WE WELCOME latest developments between Syria and Lebanon as steps that were long overdue, and which will hopefully provide a viable blueprint for other states in similar deadlocks to follow.

Published: Sun 17 Aug 2008, 11:10 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

Significantly, such a dramatic shift in the Syrian-Lebanese equation implies a monumental shift in Middle East politics. After years of heavy military and intelligence presence in Lebanon following the end of the civil war, it seems the Syrian position has changed quite a bit since it was first forced into withdrawing after the '05 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Harriri.

Yet it will take more than new found mutual goodwill to bring about a meaningful change in on ground realities. For decades Iran and Syria have supported Hezbollah within Lebanon, upsetting the very government's foundation that Assad is now embracing in Damascus, and also promising a return visit to Beirut soon. What emerges from the new setup, therefore, will have effects right across the Arab world.

It is important to put Damascus under the magnifying glass. It remains uncertain which way Assad wants to lean since Israel has used Turkish mediation to offer back the Golan Heights for cutting off all links with both Iran and Hezbollah. Then with Olmert shown the boot Assad already double minded over the Iranian issue, certain tremors no matter how light were bound to surface in the Middle East's game of politics.

Perhaps the most pragmatic way forward is noting the finer points of the new friendship treaty between Syria and Lebanon. At the centre of the deal is ensuring Arab unity, particularly a unified stance on the Israeli question, highlighting the importance of showing solidarity at a regional level. That, of course, is something the Arabs cannot boast at present.

Yet that is exactly what they must strive for. In so many ways, the Gulf remains one of the most important areas on the globe. For it to survive the storm that is engulfing it, all states with the slightest odds must follow the example set by Damascus and Beirut.

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