It was Assad’s acceptance of the Lebanese compromise and readiness to open an embassy in Beirut for the first time – thus formally recognizing Lebanon – that paved the way for Sarkozy’s visit.
“Syria can make an irreplaceable contribution to solving Middle East issues,” the French leader said before arriving in Damascus to carefully orchestrated praise from the state-controlled media.
Sarkozy faced protests in France when he reversed Jacques Chirac’s policy of isolating Syria and invited Assad to Paris to attend an EU summit with Mediterranean countries in July. A UN tribunal investigating the Hariri killing has yet to issue any indictments. Chirac was a close personal friend of the murdered Lebanese leader, whose assassination forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after 29 years. >>>>>