The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy has heralded major progress in diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria.
Before the start of a rare Mediterranean Summit in Paris, he announced that the two countries will open embassies in each others capitals, something not seen for more than 60 years.
“The will of President Bachar al-Assad to open an embassy in Lebanon, and of Lebanon to open an embassy in Syria is an historic step forward,” he said.
Sarkozy also asked for President Assad’s help to resolve the crisis over Iran’s atomic ambitions.
Tehran has denied it intends to produce nuclear weapons, saying the programme is for peaceful purposes only.
“We are asking Syria to convince the Iranians to show proof, not their intentions,” Sarkozy added, “but the proof.”
Assad expressed doubt that he could be of any help, despite close ties with Iran. He said: “We are going to speak with the Iranian leaders. As far as we know, there is no nuclear military programme. We are against all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.”
President Assad’s appearance in Paris marks the end of years of isolation from the West. Sarkozy said he plans to visit Damascus in September.