A Lebanese Abroad

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Syria halting Lebanese trucks at border: Why now?

The timing of this border dispute seems quite ill, given that the Lebanese government is "in limbo", i.e. being constituted. I don't have any further information on this, except from this story which has also been reported on Lebanese television. There is nothing I could find from the Syrian side explaining why this is being done.
From the above article:

Hundreds of trucks carrying tons of perishable goods are still queuing up at the Syrian checkpoint along the border, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of Lebanese families.

Observers said that Syria apparently wants to demonstrate to the Lebanese that the anti-Syrian sentiments following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon will not go unnoticed.

Syria is the only land outlet for Lebanese-made goods to the outside world.

"Syrian authorities are reluctant to facilitate the movement of Lebanese trucks," one trader said, adding that many of the tuck drivers are forced to throw away tons of fruits and vegetables on the road after spending days waiting near the checkpoint.

Lebanese trucks are spending between four and five days at the Syrian checkpoint while Syrian trucks crossing to Lebanon are cleared in less an hour, according to merchants.

Lebanon and Syrian signed a free-trade agreement more than five years ago but Lebanese traders and farmers complained that the Syrians never respected the agreement.

Lebanese farmers were also furious at Syrian smuggling into Lebanon, flooding the local market with cheap agricultural products.

In 1997 the volume of bilateral trade between both countries stood at $76.8 million, for which Syrian exports to Lebanon accounted for 92.7 percent.

As more agreements were signed, Lebanon gradually began tipping the trade balance in its favor. In 2000, for example, bilateral trade volume stood at $190.1 million, with Syrian exports making up 87.8 percent. By 2003, trade volume stood at $277.2 million, but Syria's share of the pie had slipped to 74 percent. In the first half of 2004, total trade volume stood at $136.95 million, of which Syrian trade accounted for only 63 percent.

Is this fair? Is this how Syria plans to deal with Lebanon, i.e. by hurting us, instead of co-operating with us?

I am curious about the opinion of others, especially if there are specific legitimate reasons for halting Lebanese trucks passing through Syria.


Blogger JoseyWales said...

Do anything, but do something.

Retaliate, stop playing dead, and stop repeating 10,000 times a day:

"good relations with siamese twin sisterly Syria under ANY friggin conditions".

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