Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has questioned Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s prolonged stay in Saudi Arabia, calling it “mysterious” as the country is teetering on the brink of a political crisis following the premier’s abrupt resignation.
“It is the first time in the history of the republic that an official announces his resignation from abroad,” Bassil told Egyptian Arabic-language al-Ahram daily newspaper on Wednesday, stressing that Hariri’s return to Lebanon has now become a “national priority”.
Bassil said Lebanon had launched a campaign to explain “the circumstances of Hariri’s resignation from abroad within the context of current events,” and also to highlight “the need to respect the international agreements and conventions that regulate political relations between states and ensure total immunity for sovereign state officials.”
Bassil’s remarks came after Lebanese President Michel Aoun said earlier on Wednesday that Saudi officials had detained Hariri, calling it an act of aggression against Lebanon.
“Nothing justifies Hariri’s lack of return for 12 days. We therefore consider him detained. This is a violation of the Vienna agreements and human rights law,” Aoun said at a meeting with Lebanese journalists and media executives.
The Lebanese president further noted that Saudi Arabia was holding Hariri’s family as well, saying, “We have not previously asked for their return, but we have confirmed that (his family) is also detained and family members are being searched as they enter and leave the house.”
French foreign minister to meet Hariri in Riyadh
Meanwhile, an unnamed French diplomatic source said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was to meet with the Lebanese prime minister during a visit to Saudi Arabia.
Le Drian is to arrive in Riyadh later on Wednesday to discuss political developments regarding Lebanon with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and hold talks with Hariri in person.
The source added that the meeting was scheduled for Thursday, but the timing could still change.
Hariri announced his resignation in a televised statement on November 4, citing many reasons, including the security situation in Lebanon, for his sudden decision. He also said that he sensed a plot being hatched against his life.
Hariri accused Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement of meddling in Arab countries’ affairs; an allegation the two have repeatedly denied.
The Lebanese prime minister announced his resignation following his visit to Saudi Arabia.
Hariri became prime minister in 2016 after serving another term between November 2009 and June 2011.
Iran has vehemently rejected Hariri’s remarks, saying his resignation and rehashing of the “unfounded and baseless” allegations regularly leveled by Zionists, Saudis and the US were another scenario to create new tensions in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.
“The sudden resignation of Mr. Hariri and its announcement in another country are not only regrettable and astonishing, but also indicative of him playing in a court that the ill-wishers in the region have laid out,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi commented.
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