Regional peace and security and the situation in neighbouring Lebanon in the wake of last year’s war topped the agenda during talks today in Damascus between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr. Ban and Mr. Assad had a 75-minute tête-à-tête in which the Syrian President assured the UN leader of cooperation in all matters relating to peace and security in the Middle East, including the Security Council resolution ending the war in Lebanon, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists.
The Secretary-General and his delegation, who are on the final leg of a four-nation tour, also met with Vice President Farouk al-Shara and Foreign Minister Walid el-Muallem.
Speaking to reporters before leaving Syria to return to UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban said he had held constructive meetings with the country’s leaders.
“Today we discussed the situation in Iraq – including Syria’s generous accommodation of so many Iraqi refugees who have been forced to flee Iraq as a result of the terrible violence in that country,” he said. “The President informed me that Syria will be willing to work with the UN on all matters relating to peace and stability in the region.”
On Lebanon, the Secretary-General said, President Assad and the Syrian Government reaffirmed their commitment to the full implementation of Council resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war in Lebanon, and to enhance consultations with the UN.
“I encouraged the President to reach a border agreement with Lebanon. He agreed today to reactivate the Border Committee with Lebanon. I warmly welcome this positive step,” Mr. Ban added.
“The President assured me that Syria is ready to assist, in partnership with other key countries, the Lebanese to reach a national consensus and a National Unity Government, and stressed Syria’s readiness to support what the Lebanese agree in this regard. I urged the President to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, and he reconfirmed his readiness in principle to establish relations with Lebanon.”
While in Syria, the UN chief also visited the Damascus offices of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and witnessed the work being done by the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has been maintaining a ceasefire in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria since 1974.
Mr. Ban had already visited Italy, Switzerland and Qatar on this official trip.