Beirut/Paris, Nov 18 (IANS) Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri met French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday after he arrived here from Saudi Arabia for talks on a crisis sparked by his resignation earlier this month.
Macron welcomed Hariri and his family at the Elysee Palace. The meeting came hours after a phone call between the French President and his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun.
The Lebanese President’s office said that Aoun had thanked Macron for “France’s actions in favour of Lebanon” and confirmed that Hariri would be in Beirut for Lebanon’s Independence Day celebrations on November 22.
Hariri announced on November 4 from the Saudi Arabia capital Riyadh that he was stepping down as Lebanon’s Prime Minister. He accused Iran of sowing “discord, devastation and destruction” in the region and said he feared there was an assassination plot against him.
He spent two weeks in Saudi Arabia, a stay that sparked speculation that he was being held against his will.
Aoun refused to accept Hariri’s resignation, accusing the Saudis of holding him. The Saudis as well as Hariri denied this. But he has not publicly explained the nature or length of his stay in Saudi Arabia, the BBC reported.
With European diplomats scrambling to defuse the crisis, France seized the role of mediator. Five days after Hariri resigned, Macron made an unscheduled trip to Riyadh to meet him and Saudi officials.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Hariri had been invited to France and was living in “Saudi Arabia by his own will”.
After meeting Macron, Hariri is expected to visit a number of Arab capitals.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recalled its envoy to Berlin over comments by Germany’s Foreign Minister suggesting Hariri was being held against his will.
Sigmar Gabriel made the remarks during a press conference with his Lebanese counterpart.
“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,” the Saudi state news agency SPA said.
Saudi Arabia also denied forcing Hariri to resign in an attempt to curb the influence of its regional rival Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, which is part of a national unity government that Hariri formed last year.
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