Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said nothing justifies the apparent detention of Saad Hariri in Saudi Arabia. In a statement on Wednesday, Aoun called the incident a Saudi act of aggression and a breach of human rights.
This is the first time since the crisis started that the Lebanese President directly accused Riyadh of detaining Hariri, who resigned from the Saudi capital on the 4th of November. Aoun has said that he won’t accept his resignation until he talks face-to-face to the leader of the country’s biggest party.
“We will not accept him remaining a hostage whose reason for detention we do not know. Nothing justifies Hariri’s lack of return for 12 days. We, therefore, consider him detained,” Aoun’s cabinet said in a statement.
Hariri for his part claims that he isn’t under house arrest. He and his family have assets in Saudi Arabia and many businesses connected to the Kingdom. The Saudi royal family was his biggest ally outside of Lebanon.
Challange for Lebanese coalition
Resigned Prime Minister claims he will return to Beirut during this week, repeating in an interview for his TV station that he has full freedom of movement.
He supposedly fell out of favor with Riyadh elites because of the coalition for forming of Lebanese government with Hezbollah. This political and militant movement is close to Iran, Saudi’s biggest rival for influence in the region.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was the first to claim that Hariri is under arrest in the Saudi capital. He also claimed Hariri was forced to resign as part of what he called Saudi Arabia’s policy of stoking sectarian tensions in Lebanon.
Lebanese coalition government was formed last year through a political deal that made Aoun president, Hariri prime minister and included members of Hezbollah in the cabinet.
France calls Hariri for a visit, but not a political exile
French officials said today that Hariri will visit that country with his family in coming days.
France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday evening to dine with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and will meet Hariri on Thursday afternoon.
French President Emmanuel Macron later “invited” Hariri and his family to France, after speaking by telephone to the prime minister and Saudi Crown, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
The invitation is to visit for a few days and is not an offer of political exile, Macron claims.
Saudi kidnapped in Lebanon released
Kidnappers in Lebanon have released a Saudi Arabian man whose abduction was announced by Riyadh last week, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.
“The kidnapped Saudi was released. He was handed over to the Lebanese army intelligence,” the agency reported.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have advised their citizens against traveling to Lebanon and urged those already there to leave as tensions have risen.