Hariri meets French President in Paris
PARIS – The Associated Press
Saad al-Hariri, who resigned as Lebanon's prime minister this month while in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Paris on Nov. 18 as part of French mediation efforts aimed at trying to ease tensions across the region.
Hariri's resignation on Nov. 4 threw Lebanon into political crisis and put it center-stage in the Middle East's overarching rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and its allies and a bloc led by Shi'ite Iran.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who welcomed Hariri with a warm embrace at the Elysee Palace for talks and a family lunch, leveraged France's close relations with both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to secure a deal that saw Hariri travel to Paris and open the door to a resolution of the crisis.
Hariri, who arrived at his residence in Paris in the early hours of the morning, told Lebanese President Michel Aoun in a phone call from Paris that he would be in Lebanon on Nov. 22 for Independence Day celebrations, Aoun said on Twitter.
A French presidential source said the two would discuss in detail the reasons behind Hariri's resignation and how to move ahead in the coming days.
"Lebanon is being shaken so it's important Hariri comes to Paris for us to work with him on the best way out of the crisis," said a senior French diplomat.
"We're trying to create the conditions for a de-escalation in the region. We want to avoid a proliferation of crises that could get out of control."
Hariri's abrupt resignation and continued stay in Saudi Arabia has caused fears for Lebanon's stability. His visit to France with his family is seen as part of a possible way out of the crisis.
Okab Saqr, a member of parliament for Hariri's Future Movement, said after Hariri's visit to France he would have "a small Arab tour" before travelling to Beirut.