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French FM Visits Riyadh to Meet Lebanese Prime Minister

  • Edward Yeranian

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 15, 2017.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir has again insisted Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is "not being detained against his will" in Saudi Arabia, while accusing Iran and its Hezbollah proxy militia of trying to dominate Lebanon and meddling in Yemen and Bahrain.

Visiting French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian told reporters that he would meet the Lebanese prime minister and that Hariri was invited to travel to Paris.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri gives a live TV interview in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 12, 2017.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri gives a live TV interview in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 12, 2017.

Paris invitation

The odd saga of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's unusually long visit to Saudi Arabia coupled with his unexpected resignation last week took another unusual turn, after France made it clear Hariri is invited to Paris.

Le Drian paid a courtesy call to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where he held a news conference with his Saudi counterpart, Adel Jubeir.

Le Drian says Hariri, whom he is expected to meet, has been invited to France, with his family, by President Macron, and he can travel to France, as soon as he would like, and be welcomed as a friend.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who was in Riyadh several days ago, repeated the offer while speaking earlier with French media.

In this Nov. 9, 2017, photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with French President Emmanuel Macron upon his arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
In this Nov. 9, 2017, photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with French President Emmanuel Macron upon his arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Macron says he met with both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Saad Hariri, adding there was agreement that Hariri would be invited to Paris as a French gesture of goodwill to bring calm and stability to Lebanon.

Jubeir told journalists Hariri is free to leave the kingdom at his leisure, despite claims by some Lebanese political leaders he is being held involuntarily.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 11, 2017.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 11, 2017.

Accusations denied

He says that Hariri is both a Saudi and a Lebanese national and he and his family live in Saudi Arabia voluntarily and are free to travel to Lebanon whenever he so chooses, depending on his personal evaluation of his safety in Lebanon. He maintains there is no basis in fact to accusations Saudi Arabia is holding him hostage, not to mention the fact he is an ally of Riyadh.

A billboard depicting Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has resigned from his post, is seen in Beirut, Nov. 11, 2017.
A billboard depicting Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has resigned from his post, is seen in Beirut, Nov. 11, 2017.

Some Arab analysts have said Hariri is in financial trouble due to the collapse of his Saudi construction company, Oger, earlier this year.

American University of Beirut political science Professor Hilal Khashan tells VOA he believes Hariri's political career is over, at the very least. "In fact, by going to Paris, this means that he is going into exile," Khashan argues, "even though the French are saying otherwise."

Khashan also worries about further instability in Lebanon with a potential Hariri exile. "This means that the Cabinet's resignation is final and they have to find another prime minister, and I do not think they will be able to find one, so Lebanon is going to witness political backlash."

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