Robert Harneis –TDO-(FRANCE) Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has arrived in France for talks on a crisis sparked by his resignation. His arrival has finally ended a period of suspense as to whether he was in reality a prisoner in Riyadh rather than a guest.
Hariri resigned unexpectedly on 4 November during a visit to Riyadh, but his resignation has not been accepted in Lebanon. Lebanese leaders believe that the resignation was forced and deliberately calculated to generate a political crisis in the country. There are fears that Israel and Saudi Arabia intend to attack Lebanon.
The Lebanese Prime Minister denied widespread allegations that he was held in Saudi Arabia against his will, tweeting that the claims were ‘a lie’. Not many are convinced because of his announcing his resignation in Saudi Arabia rather than Lebanon and his obviously uneasy manner during his television appearance.
Lebanon's president said on Saturday that Hariri had told him he would be back in the country by Wednesday, which is the country’s independence day. Mr Hariri met the French President on Saturday morning briefly before lunch with their wives and the eldest Hariri son. Two other children remain in Saudi Arabia where they attend school.
The intervention by France in the Hariri affair is in line with President Macron’s plans to redirect French diplomacy into a more neutral stance, using the country’s influence and status to mediate rather than as in recent years merely following the line taken by the Unites States, whatever that might be.
In a separate development Saudi Arabia has recalled its envoy to Berlin over comments by Germany's foreign minister suggesting Mr Hariri was held against his will.
Sigmar Gabriel made the remarks during a press conference with his Lebanese counterpart.
‘Saudi Arabia has decided to recall its ambassador to Germany for consultations and will give the German ambassador in the kingdom a letter protesting these unfortunate and unjustified statements,’ the Saudi state news agency SPA said.