The Bush administration offered a qualified welcome of Syria’s announcement that it would open an embassy in Beirut. Syria for years has resisted the establishment of such an embassy, in part because of its claims to Lebanon. Syrian troops ended their decades-long occupation of Lebanon in 2005, and since then, Western powers have been seeking additional signs that Syria is ready to cede control of the smaller country’s affairs. Sean McCormack, the U.S. State Department’s spokesman, called Tuesday’s announcement of the planned move “a positive step towards Syria recognizing its full responsibilities in terms of implementing Security Council resolutions and other international agreements.”
“Now there are other aspects of this, and that is — that includes fully defining a border between Syria and Lebanon,” he said. “So there’s still outstanding work to be done.” The Bush administration has withheld support for the current indirect Syria-Israel talks in part because it wants reassurances that Syria has relinquished its claims to Lebanon.