Report: Lebanese Ministers in Syria 'In Their Personal Capacity'

Three Lebanese ministers leading an accompanying delegation traveled to Syria “in their personal capacity” to take part in the opening of Damascus International Fair, media reports said on Thursday.

Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan, Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zoaiter and a a private sector delegation traveled for the opening of the fair the capital Damascus, An-Nahar daily reported.

Public Works and Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianos also said that he plans to head to Syria on Thursday for the same purpose.

“It is noteworthy that the three ministers insisted that their visits should be considered as official, while Prime Minister Hariri has reiterated before joining the legislative meeting on Wednesday that the ministers do not go to Syria in an official capacity," the daily said.

The daily described the move as an attempt to “normalize relations” with Syria.

Hassan and Zoaiter said they had received invitations to the Damascus International Fair, which opens on August 16.

Hassan, a minister of Hizbullah, which has intervened in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Assad's government.

Zoaiter belongs to Amal movement.

After the eruption of Syria's conflict in March 2011 with protests demanding Assad's ouster, Lebanon's government adopted a policy of "disassociation" -- preferring to maintain a neutral stance towards the complex war in a bid to avoid spillover.

Lebanon's political parties are bitterly divided between those opposing Syria's regime and factions like Hizbullah and Amal which support it.

The announced visit sparked controversy among political factions.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea had warned Wednesday that some parties "are trying to use Lebanon and the Lebanese government to bestow legitimacy on Bashar al-Assad's regime.”

Source: Naharnet, Agence France Presse

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