Syria agrees to UN-verified troop withdrawal from Lebanon by 30 April
Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the agreement reached Sunday in Damascus between the Syrian Government and Terje Roed-Larsen, his Special Envoy for implementation of Council resolution 1559, which calls for withdrawing all foreign forces from Lebanon, disbanding all militias and extending Government control over the whole country.
Mr. Roed-Larsen met today with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Omar Karami, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud and Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri in talks that focused on the need to hold free and fair elections in the country as initially scheduled. Mr. Annan has previously said he expects a full Syrian withdrawal before the elections that are to take place by the end of May.
Yesterday in Damascus, Mr. Roed-Larsen said Syria's agreement to a UN verification team was subject to acceptance by the Lebanese authorities.
"Based on our meetings today, there is now a common understanding between the United Nations and the Government of Syria that the implementation should proceed in a way that would best ensure the stability and unity of both Lebanon and Syria," he said in a press statement.
"In this context, on behalf of the Secretary-General, I have reiterated to the Government of Syria that the United Nations remains committed to the implementation of all Security Council resolutions, which will also further the stability of both countries as well as the wider region."
He said Syria had told him it had already withdrawn 4,000 of the 14,000 troops it was estimated to have on its smaller neighbour's territory. Syrian troops have been in Lebanon since the early stages of the 1975-1990 civil war, at times in much larger numbers.
Tomorrow Mr. Roed-Larsen will meet with the Lebanese Interior and Defence Ministers as well as the Army Chief to discuss the mechanisms of the withdrawal.
His current mission to the region is his third since he assumed his new job in January after serving as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.