Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has accepted an invitation to leave Saudi Arabia and go to France, officials in paris say, a day after Lebanon’s President accused Riyadh of holding Hariri “captive.”
Hariri resigned in an address from Riyadh on November 4, saying his life was in danger. He has not been back to Lebanon since, fueling speculation that he is being held against his will.
“Hariri, whom I will see soon today, has been invited to France with his family by President (Emmanuel) Macron – he will come there when and if he will wish it. And will be received as a friend,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, according to AFP.
He said that Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who held talks with the foreign minister on Wednesday, had been informed of the decision.
Hariri will meet with Macron at the Elysee Palace on Saturday, a spokesman for the French President told CNN. French officials hope that the visit will go some way to ending the political crisis by demonstrating that Hariri is free to travel.
Le Drian’s statements were made in a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir, indicating that France has played a key role mediating Lebanon’s latest political crisis.
“Mr. Hariri’s schedule is a matter for Mr. Hariri,” said Le Drian, after he was asked about Hariri’s date of arrival in France, according to AFP.
Meanwhile, al-Jubeir denied Lebanon’s claims that Saudi Arabia is holding Hariri “captive.” He said the former leader “lives in Saudi Arabia by his own will and can leave whenever he wants.”
In Lebanon, France’s invitation was welcomed by the country’s President. Lebanese President Michel Aoun said he “hoped that the crisis has ended and that a door to the solution has been opened with Hariri’s acceptance of the invitation to go to France.”
“I await PM Hariri’s return from Paris so that we can decide on our next steps when it comes to the government,” Aoun added.
On Wednesday, Aoun dubbed Hariri a hostage in his most strongly worded statement since the Prime Minister quit.
“What happened wasn’t the resignation of a government, but an act of aggression against Lebanon, its independence and dignity, and against relations between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon,” Aoun said, according to a statement released by his office.