Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun said during an interview with the French TV5 channel that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is the sole political leader of Syria and added that Lebanon should work with al-Assad’s government.
“Bashar Assad is currently the president of his country … We must engage with the existing government, we have no other choice,” the Lebanese news outlet Daily Star quoted Aoun as saying during the interview with TV5.
When he was asked about Hezbollah’s role in Syria, Aoun said that the Lebanese force intervened in Syria only after the country had become a battleground for a regional war. The Lebanese president also stressed that Hezbollah will withdraw from Syria “soon” as the war is nearing its end.
Although that Lebanese’s President stressed in the interview that the Syrian-Lebanese relations are now “limited,” his statement represents a major shift in the Lebanese Presidency’s position on Syria. Former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman had taken a more neutral stand on Syria during his term and strengthened the Lebanese relations with the main enemies of al-Assad, including the US, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Recently, many Lebanese politicians, including figures who oppose al-Assad, have called for cooperation with the Damascus government to solve many common issues like the refugee crisis. According to Aoun, there is now more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, that has the population of only about 4 million citizens.