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EU Chief Says Hariri’s Return Urgent, Warns Saudi Arabia
Local Editor

The European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini called Tuesday for the return to Beirut of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his family to be assured, during a meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

EU FP Chief Federica Mogehrini and Lebanese Minister of Foreign affairs Gibran Bassil

"Hariri and his family's return to Lebanon is urgent in the coming days; [it] will support internal stability and will strengthen national unity within Lebanon," Mogherini was quoted as saying, in a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

Bassil and Mogherini met in Brussels, after the minister arrived in Belgium on the first leg of a tour that his office had said was an attempt to explain the "ambiguous" resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

"Lebanon is still dealing with the problem with Saudi Arabia, within the framework of brotherly bilateral relations," Bassil said Tuesday from Brussels, according to local media. He added that his tour was part of an effort "to urge the kingdom [to understand] that what is happening is unacceptable."

The international tour seeks to "mobilize support [on the issue of Hariri's resignation] as well as [promoting] stability and support for Lebanon, so that it does not become a battleground between countries," a statement from the Foreign Ministry had said before the minister's departure.

Bassil contacted in advance a number of international officials and foreign ministers, who affirmed their support for Lebanon's "unity, sovereignty and freedom," the statement said.

Earlier on Monday, the top EU official said, after hosting a meeting of all 28 EU foreign ministers in Brussels: "We appeal first of all to the political forces to focus on Lebanon and what they can deliver to their citizens, Prime Minister Hariri to return to his country and the unity government ... to focus on domestic achievements."

She said foreign interference in Lebanon was a "current and always existing threat," implying a warning to Riyadh.

Hariri announced his resignation in Riyadh on November 4, shortly after travelling to Saudi Arabia. The televised announcement saw him reading out from a statement.

Sources close to him later told Reuters that he had been given the statement. However, Hariri gave an interview earlier this week amid growing criticisms of Saudi Arabia, describing himself as a "free man" who intended to "return" to his home country "within days."

The EU's diplomatic chief further said that the meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers had voiced unanimous support for Lebanon's "unity and stability."

"We expect no external interference in this national agenda and we believe it is essential to avoid importing into Lebanon regional conflicts, regional dynamics, regional tensions that have to stay out of the country," Mogherini said.

For his part, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel Tuesday expressed "fears that the country [Lebanon] will become a puppet of Syria, Saudi Arabia or any other country."

In a statement Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian echoed Mogherini's support for Lebanon's sovereignty.

"In order for there to be a political solution in Lebanon, political officials must certainly have a total freedom of action and non-intervention is the fundamental principle," he said.

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn warned Riyadh that a meltdown in Lebanon would further destabilize the tumultuous Middle East, adding that "a hostage crisis, if that is what is happening with the Lebanese prime minister in Saudi Arabia, is not very good news for the region."

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

14-11-2017 | 16:14

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