US and France ask Syria to leave Lebanon

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Lebanon is occupied by Syrian troops.
Lebanon is occupied by Syrian troops.

The US and France are repeating their calls for Syria to completely withdraw from Lebanon. The two countries are leading an international campaign, based upon the UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

Syria's president Bashar al-Assad promised to gradually withdraw his troops from the region, but the US State Department is calling Bashar al-Assad's promise "insufficient" and demanded an "immediate and full withdrawal".

The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement which read, "We note the announcement by the president of the Syrian republic of his decision to apply" UN Resolution 1559. "We, therefore, expect him to fully withdraw his troops and services from Lebanon as soon as possible."

Bashar al-Assad has announced a "two-phase" withdrawal of Syria's troops, but the timetable is not yet determined.

Syria's troops have occupied Lebanon since 1976.
Syria's troops have occupied Lebanon since 1976.

"The Syrian army wants to pull out quickly ... as soon as possible logistically," said Syrian cabinet minister Buthaina Shaaban.

Other countries shared the concerns of the US and France:

  • Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew stated, "Today's announcement by Syria of a redeployment of its troops to the Beka'a Valley and from there to the Syrian-Lebanese border falls short of Syria's obligations and the requirements of the people of Lebanon and the international community".
  • Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani al-Mulqi said, "Implementation of the resolution should result in a stronger Lebanon and a Lebanon that is undivided."
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that a complete Syrian withdrawal "will allow free and democratic elections, letting the Lebanese elect their own leaders creating an independent country, not vassal state, and maybe in the near future leading ... to a greater understanding and maybe even peace with Israel."

Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt welcomed Bashar al-Assad's announcement, calling it a "positive start", but other leaders, such as former President Amin Gemayel are concerned that "the Syrian army will stay in the mountain range within the Lebanese border".

The international campaign to ask Syria to withdraw from Lebanon has gained increased publicity since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in Beirut, on February 14.