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Lebanese security chief in 'secret overnight meeting' with Assad regime officials in Syria

Abbas Ibrahim crossed to Syria in a secret trip [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 May, 2020

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Lebanon’s director of general security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, crossed into Syria for a meeting with Assad regime officials.
A senior Lebanese official made a secret overnight visit to Syria to meet officials of Bashar Al-Assad's brutal regime.

Lebanon's director of general security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, crossed into Syria on Tuesday for talks with regime officials in Damascus.

Ibrahim told local news outlet Al-Joumhouria that issues covered inccluded border crossings and how to coordinate movement between the two countries, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the official visit aimed "to research several issues of concern to both countries".

"There are several issues that called for my visit to Syria, especially the closing of the borders between the two countries," he said. 

"I met with relevant officials in the security, interior and foreign affairs to coordinate the movement of the Lebanese to Lebanon, as well as foreigners who want to travel abroad through Beirut airport"

Read also: Syria Weekly: Greece's centre-right government moves towards Assad normalisation

Ibrahim said the borders will open for Lebanese citizens to leave Syria, along with non-residents who use Lebanon as a transit point to travel abroad. 

"As for the Syrians trying to enter Syria, the Damascus' authorities are still closing their borders, but I knew that there will be new discussions in the coming hours will be during which the appropriate decisions will be taken to return the Syrians who wish to go home," he added.

Currency manipulation

The meeting comes after more than a dozen people were arrested for illegal currency exchange operations through one of the Syrian-Lebanese border crossings.

Sixteen people in Lebanon, mostly Syrians, arrested for money transfers and "illegal" currency exchange operations amid a government crackdown on exchange rate manipulation. 

The army, which announced the arrests on Saturday, said it had arrested 13 Syrians and three Lebanese, who were carrying out "money transfers and illegal currency exchange transactions, using licensed companies and offices as a front," in a statement.

The suspects used an "unlicensed online platform belonging to one of the financial companies", to carry out the financial transactions, the statement said. 

The Lebanese pound has been pegged to the dollar at 1,507 since 1997, but the country's worst economic crisis in decades has seen its value plunge to beyond 4,000 on the black market.

The government has sought to stem the fall by launching a nationwide crackdown on money changers it alleges are exchanging the pound for dollars at a rate weaker than the 3,200 per dollar permitted by the central bank.

During the arrests, the army seized "significant sums" of cash but also computers and laptops used in these operations, the statement added, specifying that the arrests took place in 12 regions across Lebanon.

The network sent dollars with motorists across the border to Syria, specifically to the northwestern province of Idlib, a security official said.

Syria's central bank, tied to dictator Bashar al-Assad, again warned against currency manipulation on Tuesday.

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