The Lebanese government is facing the “most difficult situation” since its formation, as ministers of Hizbullah and Amal Movement plan to travel to Syria “not according to a cabinet decision,” media reports said on Thursday.
“The government is in the worst situation since its formation. Although it passed through a period where it was unable to keep up with a number of accumulated files related to the State and people’s interests, but here it is today facing an unenviable situation,” as for its relations with Syria, a ministerial source told al-Joumhouria daily.
An-Nahar daily described the move as an attempt to “normalize relations” with Syria.
Wednesday’s cabinet meeting “may be the most sensitive test for the fate of the government since its formation with the most advanced attempt to forcibly normalize relations with the Syrian regime,” said the daily.
Two ministers are to travel to Damascus next week to attend an industrial fair, they announced after Wednesday’s cabinet session.
Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan said he and Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zoaiter had received invitations to the Damascus International Fair, which opens on August 16.
“I will take part in the expo as the minister of industry in order to hold talks… I am going to Syria first and foremost as part of my vision for Lebanon’s national interest,” Hassan told reporters.
Hassan, a minister of Hizbullah, which has intervened in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Assad’s government.
Zoaiter belongs to Amal movement.
“There are some issues that need to be dealt with on the trade and industry levels between the two countries,” Hassan said.
“The ties between Lebanon and Syria are still in place politically and diplomatically. We have an ambassador (in Damascus) and they have an ambassador (in Beirut),” he added.
Syria’s conflict broke out in March 2011 with protests demanding Assad’s ouster.
The following year, Lebanon’s government adopted a policy of “disassociation” — preferring to maintain a neutral stance towards the complex war in a bid to avoid spillover.
Lebanon’s political parties are bitterly divided between those opposing Syria’s regime and factions like Hizbullah and Amal which support it.
The announced visit sparked controversy on Wednesday.
“If the minister wants to visit Syria, it will be on his own and not through a decision from the council of ministers,” said Information Minister Melhem Riachi.
Many Arab countries cut off ties with Syria when its crisis erupted six years ago, but Lebanon maintained diplomatic relations.
Still, official visits between the two countries have remained rare.
In November, Damascus dispatched its minister of presidential affairs, Mansour Azzam, to Beirut to congratulate newly-elected Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
The trip was the first by a Syrian official to Lebanon since 2010, when Assad and then-Saudi King Abdullah visited the country in a bid to ease rising political tensions.