Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad assured former Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, that he would not interfere in the selection of a presidential candidate in Lebanon, amid rumours that the two figures met for the advancement of political goals.
In a meeting in the Syrian capital, Damascus, yesterday, Assad and Aoun discussed a number of issues relating to the bilateral relations shared between their countries and striking a friendly tone, according to the news outlet, Al Mayadeen.
The Syrian President is reported to have expressed his hope that the various parties in Lebanon agree on a candidate for the presidency, with the former Lebanese leader expressing his certainty that Syria will emerge stable and victorious against the Syrian opposition and international isolation amid the ongoing crises.
Syrian Presidency | President Bashar al Assad receives former Lebanese President Gen. Michel Aoun.
— التلفزيون السوري | Syria TV (@Syriatv1960) June 6, 2023
According to Lebanon’s Al Joumhouria newspaper, which cited anonymous sources close to Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Assad assured the former Lebanese president that “he is not interfering in the presidential file” and that he will “remain neutral and won’t discuss this file with anyone”.
The visit – which is the first in 14 years and came as a surprise to many – raised speculation that Aoun was using the meeting with Assad to seek his intervention in the long overdue selection of a presidential candidate in Lebanon, after seven months of the position remaining vacant, especially amid the FPM’s disagreement with the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its allies over their choice.
Aoun’s media office today issued a statement denying that he sought Assad’s support, however, emphasising Lebanon’s sovereignty and insisting that Aoun “did not request a mediation or support for the position of the Free Patriotic Movement leader”.
An FPM representative was also quoted by the Emirati newspaper, The National, as stressing that “Aoun’s visit was strategic, about Syria and Lebanon’s shared interests and the return of refugees to Syria, and it was not related to internal affairs”.