Border crossing between Lebanon and Syria reopens

The Lebanese border village of Al Qaa. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2017

Border crossing between Lebanon and Syria reopens

BEIRUT: A Lebanese General Security Center is being opened at the Qaa border crossing with Syria after the Syrian side opened the opposite Jusiyah crossing after a five-year closure.
A Lebanese security official told Arab News that the passage of individuals and cars would start at 6 a.m. on Friday, “but the expectations are not big.”
The security official said that “the whole issue could be limited to local residents only, because there are Lebanese citizens who have properties in Syria, and there are Syrian citizens who have relatives in Lebanon, otherwise we do not expect the return of Syrian refugees to inland Syria.”
The Lebanese-Syrian border crossing links the Syrian city of Homs with the Lebanese Baalbek-Hermel governorate. The Lebanese official said that “both the Lebanese and Syrian sides intentionally brought the border points closer to a great extent, because some Syrian refugees who fled from Homs to Lebanon set up their tents in no-man’s land, which is about 12 kilometers away. And following the latest arrangement, the refugees have become inside Lebanese territories.”
The security source estimated the number of Syrian refugees in this area to be about 30,000.
The security source noted that “the goal of this move is to control the movement of refugees in this area between the Lebanese and Syrian sides,” adding that “the actual return of refugees is still awaiting a political solution for the war in Syria, which involves tackling the issue of refugees.” However, the source said that “opening the border crossing is part of field preparations for any future step in this direction.”
Meanwhile, the press office of Prime Minister Saad Hariri released a statement by the prime minister stressing that “those who think the war in Syria is over are mistaken.”
Opening the border crossing was not accompanied by any official Syrian-Lebanese rapprochement.
However, two members of the Lebanese Parliament, one from Hezbollah and another from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, who participated in the ceremony on the Lebanese side, came to the Syrian crossing point, where General Mohammad Al-Sha’ar, the Syrian Minister of the Interior, Talal Al-Barazi, the governor of Homs, and some Syrian General Security officers were standing with representatives of the Syrian media.
Al-Sha’ar said: “We are with anything that may serve the normal relations and the natural context between Lebanon and Syria, and there are no hurdles impeding anyone who wants to return to Syria.”
Al-Barazi noted that “the situation will go back to normal, and hopefully the transit activity to and from Lebanon will return to what it used to be before 2012.”
On the Lebanese side of the border crossing, the general director of the Lebanese General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, inaugurated the new General Security center without coming to the Syrian side. He said in a speech that the inauguration of the center “is of great importance at these exceptional sensitive times. We are here to set the borders of our homeland with efforts and sacrifice.”
Ibrahim noted that the center “is furnished with men and equipment to be, first and foremost, a station for safety and security for the Qaa and Lebanese people and, secondly, a guarantee for the freedom of movement for people to and from Lebanon, within the limits of law and mutual agreements, so that the residents of Qaa and its neighboring areas can protect their property and invest their lands without any hurdles or difficulties.”
He also said that “the cooperation with the Syrian side is within the limits imposed by the procedures and laws,” stressing that “the policy of dissociation has nothing to do with opening the border crossing.”
The Qaa-Jusiyah crossing is one of five official border crossings between Lebanon and Syria, all of which are now under the control of the forces of the Syrian regime. These borders include Jdidat Yabus-AlMasna’ (Beqaa), which is open for individuals and vehicles; Dabbusiah-Abbudiah (in the north), which has never been closed; Talkalakh-Albuqeiha, which is still closed; and Tartus-Arida, which is open.
There are many “illegal border crossing points along the Lebanese-Syrian border used by smugglers and people moving between the two countries illegally,” according to the same security source.

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”