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Syria boosts diplomatic ties with Lebanon

In another nod to the West, Syria also sent an ambassador to Iraq – the first in decades.

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Syria has boosted its formal diplomatic ties to Lebanon and Iraq in a bid to further ease international pressure on Damascus and place decades of troubled relations with its two Arab neighbors on a fresh footing.

Syrian President Bashir al-Assad issued a decree Tuesday to establish formal diplomatic relations with Beirut. It is Syria's first formal recognition of Lebanese sovereignty since both countries gained independence from France in the 1940s.

The decree provides for "the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Lebanese Republic and the creation of a diplomatic mission at ambassador level in the Lebanese capital Beirut," according to Syria's official national news agency.

But analysts doubt that the move signals a fundamentally new way in which Syria will deal with Lebanon.

"It is symbolically important," says Ousama Safa, head of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. "It is window dressing for the West to show that Syria is fulfilling its commitments to the international community."

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