Middle East

Lebanon’s premier Hariri arrives in Paris from Saudi Arabia

Saad Hariri arrived in Paris on his private jet early Saturday morning. Lebanese television showed footage of him leaving Paris’ Le Bourget airport, and later entering his Paris residence. A source close to the outgoing prime minister announced, “The premier has arrived.”

Hariri was accompanied by his wife, Lara al-Azm, but there was no sign of his three children in the footage.

Macron had said Hariri would be welcomed with honors

Hariri’s resignation and refusal to return to Lebanon prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to make a surprise trip to Riyadh last week. Macron urged for calm and extended an invitation to Hariri to come to France, which the Lebanese politician accepted.

Early on Friday, Macron said we would welcome Hariri “with the honors due a prime minister” because his resignation has not yet been officially recognized.

The Lebanese leader is expected to meet Macron on Saturday.

Speaking at an EU summit in Sweden on Friday, Macron also said that Hariri “has the intention, I believe, of going to his country in the days or weeks ahead.”

Still a prime minister

Hariri announced he was quitting his post as the Lebanese prime minister in a video message on November 4, during a visit to Saudi Arabia. The 47-year-old politician accused Iran and the powerful Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah of sowing “fear and destruction” across the region and alluded to an alleged plot against his life.

He has so far ignored the calls to return to the country.

Many in Lebanon and abroad, however, believe that Hariri was forced to resign by the Saudi authorities and was held in the kingdom against his will, as a part of a major ploy against Iran’s influence in the religiously divided Lebanon. Hariri belongs to the Sunni political faction which is backed by the Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, and also holds Saudi citizenship. He has consistently rejected reports of his detention.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Shiite Muslim, has refused to consider the resignation before the two meet in person.

Tweet to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel

In a rare English-language tweet, Saad Hariri responded to recent comments made by Sigmar Gabriel, saying it was a “lie” that he was held captive by the Saudi government.

Shortly after the tweet, Lebanon’s Future TV reported that Hariri “left Riyadh airport on his private jet with his wife” and was headed for Le Bourget airport near Paris in France.

On Thursday, Gabriel met with his Lebanese colleague Gebran Bassil in Berlin, where he warned against “adventurism” in the crisis prompted by Hariri’s shock resignation two weeks ago. Earlier in the week, the German official said that “Lebanon has earned the right to decide on its fate by itself and not become a pinball of Syria or Saudi Arabia or other national interests.”

Saudi Arabia late on Friday announced it was recalling its ambassador to Germany for consultation, in response to Gabriel’s remarks. Saudi state news agency SPA accused Germany’s top diplomat of suggesting that Hariri had been held in Riyadh against his will.

“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,” SPA quoted the Saudi foreign ministry of saying.

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