French FM in Riyadh, Hariri Said to Leave for Paris in 48 Hours

Hariri Can Travel to France Whenever He Wants — Says Le Drian

تم نشره في Thu 16 November / Nov 2017. 01:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Thu 16 November / Nov 2017. 07:10 PM
  • Jean-Yves Le Drian (R) said he had a friendly and trusting meeting with Saad Hariri (L) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - (AFP)


CAPITALS —AlGhad— The French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said, during a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, today, Thursday, that the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri can travel "when he wants" to France from Saudi Arabia, where officials in Beirut allege he is being detained.


A source close to Hariri revealed to Reuters that the resigned Lebanese premier may be leaving for Paris within the next 48 hours.


Adel Jubeir said the claim that Mr Hariri was being held was "false" and he was in Saudi Arabia by his own will, according to the BBC.


Just last week, Hariri unexpectedly resigned during a visit to Saudi Arabia.


Yesterday, Wednesday, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon for the first time publicly accused Saudi of holding him, saying, "Nothing justified" his absence.


As Mr Le Drian arrived in Riyadh, also on Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced that he had invited Mr Hariri and his family to France, having spoken to Hariri and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


Afterwards, Mr Macron clarified that he was not offering political exile to Hariri, and that he expects him to stay only "for a few days".


On Thursday, France's foreign minister told reporters: "He [Mr Hariri] will be welcome as a friend."


When asked when he would leave Riyadh, according to French news agency AFP, Mr Hariri told: "I would rather not answer that right now."


For his part, Mr Hariri insisted that he was fine and would soon return to Lebanon.


Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied forcing Mr Hariri to resign in an attempt to curb the influence of its regional rival Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.


Notably, Hezbollah is part of a national Lebanese unity government formed by Mr Hariri last year.

Posters depicting Saad Hariri are displayed in streets in the Lebanese capital, Beirut - (Reuters)


France, Lebanon's onetime colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate in the crisis.


Its position is that Mr Hariri should be allowed back to Beirut to resubmit his resignation in person, reports the BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris.


For the moment that option is unacceptable to the Saudis, so a compromise appears to have been arranged under which the prime minister travels to Paris, where he has extensive personal and business connections, BBC correspondents confirmed.


Mr Hariri has close ties to Saudi Arabia. He holds both Lebanese and Saudi citizenship, owns properties in the Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh is a key backer of his political party, the Future Movement.