Beirut / Damascus - Syria on Monday reopened two border crossings with northern Lebanon that were closed in May over alleged security concerns, witnesses and Lebanon's state-run news agency said.
The Arida and Dabussiya border crossings near the northern port city of Tripoli were temporarily closed soon after fighting between al-Qaida-inspired militants and the Lebanese army erupted on May 20 at a nearby Palestinian refugee camp.
Syria said at the time that the closure was "to preserve the security" of Syrian and Lebanese citizens on both sides of the border.
Lebanon's anti-Syrian majority charged that the Fatah al-Islam militiamen who fought the army in a deadly showdown which cost almost 400 lives had links to Syrian intelligence, an allegation denied by Damascus.
The bloody, almost four-month siege at the Nahr el-Bared camp ended Sept. 2 with a ferocious gun-battle that left many of the militants dead or captured.
Witnesses and the state-run National News Agency said the border crossings were reopened Monday afternoon.
The reopening followed a visit by north Lebanese delegates to Damascus on Sunday. The delegates met with Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa to discuss the suffering of residents of north Lebanon as a result of the closure.
Syria's official news agency SANA said al-Sharaa informed members of the delegation that Syrian President Bashar Assad had given orders to reopen the borders.
Also Monday, the Lebanese military issued a statement announcing the death of a Lebanese soldier, saying he died Sunday of wounds sustained during fighting in Nahr el-Bared. His death brought to 170 the number of soldiers who have died in the conflict.
Syria always uses the borders to twist the arms of the Lebanese
This is not the first time that Lebanon - Syria borders becomes a major issue. The Syrians have always used the borders to twist the arms of the Lebanese and force them to beg for reopening the crossings. This is what Lebanese MP Wajih Baarani did when he met Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa.
In 2005 , following the assassination of Lebanon's prime minister Rafik Hariri, Syria closed the borders with Lebanon, because the Lebanese accused the Syrian regime of being responsible for his assassination
When the fighting between Fatah al-Islam militants and the Lebanese army erupted last May , Syria closed the borders in the north of Lebanon, because the Lebanese accused the Syrians of supporting the militants.
Many analysts in Lebanon have been calling for bypassing the Syrian borders altogether by using the sea as the mode of transportation of Lebanon's exports. These analysts think that Syria is not a reliable partner and therefore Lebanon cannot depend on it for exporting its agricultural products .
Lebanese agricultural products according to analysts are in big demand in the Middle East Gulf region due to heir quality, unique flavor and excellent taste, but Syria has always been the obstacle in trying to bring these products to the markets on timely basis.
Picture: Lebanon Fruit and vegetables . In this country where you can swim and ski within one hour, it is difficult to name a fruit or vegetable that does not grow here. Lebanon is also blessed with a very moderate Mediterranean climate with distinct 4 seasons and many rivers. The problem for Lebanon has always been the tough neighborhood, with Israel in the south and Syria in the north and east, Lebanon has a problem in exporting its unique produce. This is why some are calling for bypassing land transportation all together and using the Mediterranean sea instead, because they say Syria is not a reliable partner. Israel on the other hand has been stealing Lebanese water and has invaded Lebanon several times, the last time was the summer of 2006 when it destroyed the country's infrastructure and fired over 1 million cluster bombs. Many Lebanese farmers have since died for coming in contact with some of the unexploded cluster bombs.
Sources: AP, IHT, Ya Libnan
Tags: Borders, Farouk al-Sharaa, Fatah al-Islam, Security, Syria, Terrorism