Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri arrived in Paris on Saturday and was welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace. Al-Hariri’s arrival comes after two weeks of his sudden video resignation, amid rumours that he is being held captive in Riyadh against his will.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who did not accept Al-Hariri’s resignation, announced that he received a phone call from Al-Hariri saying that he would be back in Lebanon on Wednesday to attend Independence Day celebrations in Beirut, as reported by the state-run National News Agency of Lebanon.
Al-Hariri’s resignation sparked a political crisis in Lebanon, coming amid accusations that Iran is sowing devastation in the region and claims that their ally Hezbollah is destabilising the country.
Many in Lebanon and abroad, including Al-Hariri supporters, believe that he was forced to resign by Saudi Arabia, and was held captive against his will. Hezbollah’s leader appeared on his party’s affiliated media outlet Al-Manar one day after the resignation and suggested that Al-Hariri is not a free man.
Moreover, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed his concern about the instability and bloodshed in Lebanon on Thursday and warned against “adventurism”, without directly mentioning Saudi Arabia.
“To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport, Mr. Sigmar Gabriel,” Al-Hariri wrote in a tweet on Saturday, denying the claims.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia announced on Friday that they formally protest Gabriel’s remarks, announcing that they will recall their ambassador to Germany.
Macron’s invitation came in hopes of mediating the crisis and reducing tensions between different factions in Lebanon. Macron stressed that France was not offering political exile for Al-Hariri.
Earlier on Friday, Macron said during a European Union summit meeting that France will not pick sides in the Middle East, yet urged Iran to pursue a less aggressive regional strategy.