PARIS — Lebanon’s absent prime minister arrived in France on Saturday morning after two weeks in Saudi Arabia, a mysterious keep that touched off intense speculation that he was getting held against his will.
The prime minister, Saad Hariri, who has not publicly explained the nature of his remain in Saudi Arabia, met with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, for lunch at the Élysée Palace and confirmed that he would travel to Beirut later in the week.
The meeting with Mr. Macron came hours soon after a telephone get in touch with amongst Mr. Macron and the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, the French president’s workplace mentioned. Officials said that Mr. Aoun had thanked Mr. Macron for “France’s actions in favor of Lebanon” and confirmed that Mr. Hariri would be in Beirut for Lebanon’s Independence Day vacation, which is Wednesday.
Mr. Hariri later said in statements to the news media that he would announce his position on the crisis in his nation right after holding talks with Mr. Aoun.
“As you know, I have resigned and we will speak about this matter there,” Mr. Hariri told reporters, referring to Lebanon, as he was leaving the Élysée Palace, exactly where he met with Mr. Macron for more than 30 minutes, before gathering for lunch with his wife, their oldest son and Mr. Macron’s wife.
Following the meeting, officials in the French president’s office announced that Mr. Macron was considering gathering in Paris the members of the United Nations International Assistance Group for Lebanon, though no distinct date was provided.
French officials refused to say whether or not Mr. Hariri had explained to Mr. Macron the purpose for his mysterious stay in Saudi Arabia or the circumstances around the announcement of his resignation.
Mr. Hariri’s office mentioned earlier on Saturday that his wife, Lara, and their son Houssam would be present at the lunch in the Lebanese prime minister’s honor at the Élysée Palace. Mr. Hariri’s wife had accompanied him on the flight from Saudi Arabia, and his son was said to have flown in from Britain.
Mr. Hariri’s two younger children, a 16-year-old daughter, Loulwa, and a 12-year-old son, Abdulaziz, did not seem in television footage of his arrival. The two have been attending college in Saudi Arabia and could have stayed behind for that cause, but their apparent absence was an obstacle to ending concerns that Mr. Hariri was not acting freely. It left room for speculation that the Saudis had pressured Mr. Hariri to leave them in the nation as leverage.
Mr. Hariri announced on Nov. 4 from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that he was stepping down as Lebanon’s prime minister, but officials in Lebanon have stated that his departure would not take impact till he delivered his resignation in person in Beirut.
Mr. Hariri’s unexpected trip and resignation unsettled the Middle East, setting off a political crisis in Lebanon and even raising fears of war. Saudi Arabia was extensively noticed as pressuring Mr. Hariri to resign as portion of its escalating regional feud with Iran and its work to isolate Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia and political party that is portion of Mr. Hariri’s coalition government.
Mr. Hariri mentioned he feared for his safety in Lebanon.
With European diplomats scrambling to defuse the crisis, France seized the role of mediator. Mr. Macron made a surprise visit to Riyadh on Nov. 9. A week later, the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, met Mr. Hariri in the Saudi capital.
Mr. Macron’s deputy adviser on diplomacy also traveled from Paris to Lebanon during the crisis, whilst Mr. Macron was having “direct and frequent” contacts with leaders in the region, which includes President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, according to officials in the French president’s office.
France has robust ties to Lebanon, where it was a former colonial ruler, and to the Hariri household.
“It’s an occasion for France to show that it can be an intermediary and have a part in the crises of the Middle East,” Rima Tarabay, an adviser on European affairs for Mr. Hariri, mentioned in a telephone interview.
But Ms. Tarabay added that the crisis went beyond Mr. Hariri’s announced resignation, which has plunged the political circumstance of Lebanon in uncertainty.
“We are facing a extremely complex circumstance, not especially tied to Saad’s individual issue, but concerning what is going to occur next,” Ms. Tarabay said, raising concerns about the potential “resurgence of violence in the region, and a war amongst Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
At a European Union summit meeting on Friday, Mr. Macron told journalists that France did not want to choose sides in the Middle East, adding that “the function of France is to speak to every person.” Nevertheless, he urged Iran to pursue a “less aggressive regional method.”
On Saturday, Mr. Hariri met at his residence in France with two of his closest advisers, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk and Nader Hariri, a senior aide. Several of the prime minister’s most trusted advisers had been out of touch or only in rare contact with him during his Saudi remain.
At 1:10 a.m. on Saturday in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Hariri wrote on Twitter that he was “on the way to the airport.” His tweet pointed out Sigmar Gabriel, the foreign minister of Germany, who had asked whether the Saudis had been holding Mr. Hariri.
Saudi Arabia later mentioned on Saturday that it would formally protest Mr. Gabriel’s remarks and that it would recall its ambassador to Germany.
Mr. Hariri had arrived in Riyadh just as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, put numerous of the country’s most wealthy and powerful guys, like some members of the royal family, beneath de facto arrest in what has been described as an anti-corruption sweep.
His pay a visit to also came as the Saudis accused Iran-backed rebels in Yemen of firing a missile at Riyadh. It was not clear if Mr. Hariri’s trip was related to these events.
In Lebanon, many concerns remain, which includes no matter whether Mr. Hariri will hand in his resignation or rescind it, and no matter whether the government will be reorganized.
“The crisis of the resignation and Hariri’s return is now finished, but a political crisis has just begun,” Lebanon’s Parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, said on Friday right after news emerged that Mr. Hariri would fly to Paris.
Regardless of his subsequent moves, Mr. Hariri will stay beholden to Saudi Arabia. His individual and family finances are deeply entwined with the country, which has also backed his party’s substantial political patronage network and media outlets. But the Saudi gambit to get him to take a much more confrontational approach against Iran and Hezbollah could backfire.
Mr. Hariri could finish up presiding over a caretaker government ahead of elections planned for next year. Analysts and diplomats stated that Saudi Arabia was probably to obtain little a lot more than a renewed rhetorical commitment from all sides to Lebanese neutrality.
Tension had been building throughout the year because Mr. Hariri formed a national unity government in a deal that brought Mr. Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, to the presidency.
Hezbollah gained new energy and weaponry whilst assisting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, another Iran ally, beat back insurgents. Mr. Aoun started signaling plans to normalize relations with the Syrian government, with members of his celebration even meeting with Syrian diplomats in New York for the duration of the annual Basic Assembly gatherings. That was as well a lot for some of Mr. Hariri’s allies and supporters, and for Riyadh.
Mr. Hariri reached out to Jordan with a request to go to Amman as a safe haven, a Western official mentioned. The request was denied, the official said, simply because the Saudis had pressured Jordan not to accept him.
A spokeswoman at the Embassy of Jordan in Washington denied that such a request had been created.
Assessing what Mr. Hariri’s keep in France would imply for the crisis in Lebanon going forward, an official in the French president’s workplace stated the move had most likely contributed to easing the present tensions but was unlikely, he added, to bring them to any definitive conclusion.
Published at Sat, 18 Nov 2017 23:52:21 +0000