DAMASCUS: Lebanon’s first ambassador to Syria took up his post in Damascus Monday in the latest sign of improving relations between the two neighbors after years of tensions. Career diplomat Michel Khoury assumed his duties as Lebanon’s first ambassador to Syria, more than a month after Lebanon opened its first-ever embassy in Damascus. Syria has also opened an embassy in Beirut. The opening of embassies in both countries sealed the establishment of full diplomatic ties between the long-feuding rivals for the first time since they gained independence from France in the 1940s.

Relations between the two countries reached a turning point in August when they agreed to establish ties and demarcate their contentious border. The agreement marked a final break in Syria’s longtime dominance over its smaller neighbor. Diplomatic ties with Syria have been a pressing demand by Lebanon’s anti-Syrian factions, the US and other Western states. Syria had dominated its smaller neighbor since the 1970s, when it sent its army into Lebanon, then engulfed in Civil War.





Syria’s hold unraveled in 2005, after former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri was killed in a car bombing that many Lebanese blame on Syria.

After Hariri’s assassination, Syria caved to US-led international pressure and Lebanese protests and withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005.

After taking office, Khoury told reporters the opening of a Lebanese Embassy in Damascus reflected the "good relations" between the two countries.

Khoury, formerly Lebanon’s ambassador to Cyprus, said ties between the countries were "historical and will remain so."

Syria opened an embassy in Beirut in December and has nominated Ali Abdel-Karim, its current ambassador to Kuwait, as ambassador. He is expected to take office soon.

Khoury has yet to present his credentials to Syrian President Bashar Assad. – AP