French President, Emmanuel Macron, has claimed credit for solving a political crisis in Lebanon in 2017, stating publicly that Saudi Arabia held Prime Minister, Saad al-Hariri, for several weeks.
Lebanon was plunged into crisis in November when Hariri resigned as prime minister while in Saudi Arabia.
The PM said he feared assassination and criticized the Saudis’ regional rival Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Lebanese officials accused the Saudis, at the time, of holding Mr Hariri hostage.
After the international intervention, including by Mr Macron, Mr Hariri was able to leave the kingdom and eventually rescinded his resignation.
“If France hasn’t listened to them, there probably would be a war in Lebanon at this moment as we speak.
“It’s French diplomacy, it’s our action,’’ Mr Macron said in an interview with broadcaster BFM TV, visibly irritated after being asked if his foreign policy over the last year had achieved anything.
Mr Macron said an unscheduled stopover in Riyadh to convince Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, followed by an invitation to Mr Hariri to come to France, had been the catalyst to ending the crisis.
“I remind you that a prime minister was held in Saudi Arabia for several weeks,’’ he said, a comment that could irk Riyadh which, like Mr Hariri, denied he was ever held against his will.
Mr Macron dined with Mr Hariri and Prince Mohammed in Paris in April after a conference to rally international support for an investment programme to boost the Lebanese economy.
Mr Hariri, who visited Riyadh in February for the first time since the November crisis, is working to form a new coalition after a May 6 parliamentary election that strengthened his rival Hezbollah and its political allies. (Reuters/NAN)
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