Syria Agrees to Lebanon Arms Embargo


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

September 2, 2006

Syria Agrees to Lebanon Arms Embargo

DOHA, Qatar, Sept. 1 ‹ The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, said 
Friday that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had pledged to respect an embargo
on weapons going into Lebanon and to help secure the border with added guards 
and a greater liaison with the Beirut authorities.

Mr. Annan said his one-hour talk with Mr. Assad in the presidential palace in 
Damascus on Friday morning had also produced agreements to open bilateral 
negotiations on setting up formal diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon
and on delineating their contested border.

Syria is widely believed, along with Iran, to provide the Lebanese-based militia
Hezbollah with money and weapons, and Mr. Annan was asked at an airport news 
conference in Damascus if he thought the steps he was announcing would succeed 
in blocking illegal arms shipments.

³I think it can happen,² he replied. ³It may not be 100 percent, but it will 
make quite a lot of difference if the government puts in place the measures the 
government has discussed with me.²

A United Nations diplomat said the meeting in Damascus had given the world body 
new leverage in Syria, a country with which it has had difficult relations.

³The secretary general now has a precise understanding with Mr. Assad on what he
is expected to do,² said the diplomat, who was not authorized to speak for 
attribution. ³He got what he wanted as concerning commitments. The test is, now,
will Assad deliver.²

Mr. Assad had no public comment on the meeting, but Walid al-Moallem, Syria¹s 
foreign minister, dismissed reports of arms shipments by Syria as ³something you
read only in the Western media.² In an interview, he conceded only that there 
were incidents of ³smuggling.²

Israel officials expressed skepticism on Friday that Syria would stop Hezbollah 
from rearming.

³Israel does not think that Syria during the last conflict ‹ both in helping 
Hezbollah by financing and arming them directly and the declarations during the 
conflict ‹ and in its aftermath, has shown any reason to be a reliable force,² 
said Miri Eisin, a government spokeswoman, Reuters reported.

The pledges that Mr. Annan obtained are aimed at shoring up the independence of 
Lebanon, a country whose politics were long dominated by Syria and whose 
authority has been undermined by Hezbollah.

The agreements track with the Aug. 11 Security Council resolution that brought a
halt to the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Mr. Annan is in the midst of a 
Middle Eastern trip seeking support for putting the resolution¹s formula into 

Since Monday, Mr. Annan has visited Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank and Syria. He
arrived in Qatar late Friday and was scheduled to go Saturday to Iran, where he 
will meet Sunday with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Further stops include 
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Mr. Annan said he had asked Syria to help win the release of three Israeli 
soldiers ‹ two captured by Hezbollah in a July 12 cross-border raid that set off
the war, and one captured in June by Hamas-linked militants in Gaza.

The exiled political leadership of Hamas is based in Damascus.

The United Nations believes a plan under which prisoners on both sides would be 
freed would open the way toward broader agreements between Israel and Lebanon.

Mr. Annan said he had encouraged Mr. Assad to meet with the Lebanese prime 
minister, Fouad Siniora, who is backed by an anti-Syrian majority. The Syrian 
president told him he was ready to do that at any time.

The arms embargo section of the United Nations resolution calls on countries to 
prevent the sale or supply of weapons to entities in Lebanon without the consent
of the government or United Nations peacekeepers. It also calls for Lebanon to 
³secure its borders and other entry points.²

Another passage of the resolution calls for the dismantling of all foreign 
militias, a reference to Hezbollah. Mr. Annan said, without elaboration, that 
Mr. Assad had endorsed the Lebanese government¹s ³national dialogue² 
determination that armed militias be disbanded.

Mr. Annan said Mr. Assad had committed Syria to establishing joint border 
patrols and control points with the Lebanese authorities.

Mr. Siniora has stationed 8,600 troops along the border, and Germany has 
arranged to give the Lebanese training and equipment for scrutinizing 
cross-border shipments.

Mr. Assad¹s reference signaled that he would not object to this outside 
assistance. Earlier, he had protested an Israeli suggestion that foreign troops 
under United Nations mandate assist the Lebanese in patrolling the Syrian 

Mr. Annan said that Mr. Assad had said he accepted the need to define the 
Syrian-Lebanese border in principle but had told him it was an issue to be 
worked out by the two countries.

Syria has long argued that the neighbors do not need diplomatic ties because of 
their traditional links, prompting Lebanese suspicions that Damascus refuses to 
acknowledge as fully sovereign the country it controlled until it ended a 
29-year troop presence last year.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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