Hariri to Leave Riyadh for Paris Within 48 Hours

Bruno Cirelli
Novembre 18, 2017

His comments to Reuters echo recent statements by Saad al-Hariri, who quit abruptly as Lebanese prime minister in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.

France, Lebanon's former colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate the crisis and French president Emanuel Macron invited Hariri and his family to the country after his foreign minister met with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the crisis.

If Hariri is accompanied by his family members, who are currently in Saudi Arabia, it will further persuade the Lebanese that he is really free to speak his mind.

In just a week, Lebanon's leading figures have quickly reached a consensus that they need Hariri back, a point echoed by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who is looking increasingly statesmanlike as the days pass and whose calm, measured speeches are now being watched by the entire country - thanks to Riyadh's cunning plan.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Thursday rejected as "baseless" allegations that Saudi Arabia was detaining Hariri and said it is up to him to decide when to leave. His coalition government includes Hezbollah, the heavily armed Shi'ite Muslim militant group and political party.

An Elysee Palace source said Hariri would fly to Paris on Saturday and meet President Emmanuel Macron the same day.

"Such return would resolve all our problems", he said.

"We hope that the crisis is over and Hariri's acceptance of the invitation to go to France is the start of a solution", Aoun said on the official presidential Twitter account. Macron said Hariri will be received "with the honors due a prime minister", even though he has announced his resignation, since Lebanon hasn't yet recognized it.

Bahaa Hariri's name has been mentioned in Lebanese media reports as a possible Saudi-backed candidate to replace his brother.

Macron, on his first state visit to the Middle East last week, called for vigilance towards Tehran over its ballistic missile programme and regional activities. Hariri is expected then to flying home to Beirut to officially submit his resignation.

"From the moment the prime minister uttered his desire to quit, the government became a resigned one", he said.

"Hezbollah has kidnapped the Lebanese system", he added.

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has a long-running rivalry with Shia-led Iran, which supports Lebanon's main political power broker, Hezbollah.

Naturally, there is speculation France is quietly offering Hariri a path into exile, a possibility President Macron explicitly denied to reporters when he insisted Hariri would only be staying for "a few days.". But Tillerson also needs to intervene, rather than merely warn against the Saudis creating a proxy war in Lebanon before it's too late, and the Saudis pull the entire region into a new war which can never be won, and Saudi Arabia and its new ally certainly can't afford to lose.

Meanwhile mutual suspicion of Iran also appears to have pushed US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel closer together, despite the two countries having no official diplomatic ties.

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