Michel Aoun presses Saudis on Saad Hariri’s status

President wants to know what is preventing PM from returning to Beirut from Riyadh where he announced his resignation.

Lebanon’s president has called on Saudi Arabia to clarify exactly why Saad Hariri, the country’s prime minister, has yet to return to Beirut.

Michel Aoun wants to know what is preventing Hariri from leaving Riyadh, where he announced his surprise resignation on November 4.

It has been a week since Hariri appeared on a Saudi satellite channel and announced his resignation.

But it is not being accepted unless he delivers it on Lebanese soil.

In Lebanon, all political parties and factions have asked for the return of the prime minister. His party, the Future Movement, says it has not heard from him since his televised resignation speech.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from a mainly Sunni neighbourhood in Beirut on Saturday, said: “Many people here feel that the current crisis is going to marginalise them even further.

“The Sunni community has long complained of Iranian dominance in Lebanon. Now they are blaming their own ally, Saudi Arabia, for robbing them of their leader.”

Nasrallah’s speech

Hariri’s political adversary, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia paramilitary cum political bloc, has refused to acknowledge the resignation.

In a televised speech on Friday, Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, accused Saudi Arabia of forcing Hariri to quit and holding him against his will.

The Lebanese unity government that Hariri formed a year ago includes Hezbollah members.

Thamer al-Sabhan, Saudi minister for Gulf affairs, warned earlier this month that his government would deal with Lebanon as a hostile state as long as Hezbollah was in the Lebanese government.

The Lebanese unity government that Hariri formed a year ago includes Hezbollah members.

For his part, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman has said Saudi Arabia is aiming to create unrest in Lebanon after doing so in the Arab Gulf region and Yemen.

Bahram Qasemi said, in comments carried by state news agency IRNA on Saturday, the kingdom is trying to destabilise the region.

Qasemi said Saudi Arabia is “after creating unrest in Lebanon”.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting proxy wars in the region from Syria to Yemen. Iran is a predominantly Shia military and economic power while Saudi Arabia is a Sunni bloc leader.

Saudi Arabia blames Iran for backing armed groups throughout the Middle East and has recently pledged to fight them.

Moukhtar Ghazzawi, a Beirut resident, told Al Jazeera: “It’s been humiliating for quite some time since 2005, I guess, since the [Rafik] Hariri assassination.

“We have two poles – Saudi Arabia and Iran – and those two poles have people on the ground. Iran has arms, the other side has economics, and we are in the middle of all this.”

Support for stability

There have been international calls for stability in Lebanon, with the US warning regional powers against using the country for proxy conflicts.

The UN too is calling for stability in Lebanon.

France and the US have expressed their support for Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported on Saturday that French President Emmanuel Macron called his Lebanese counterpart to express France’s commitment to Lebanon’s “unity, sovereignty and independence”.

Earlier, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement: “The United States calls upon all states and parties to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence, and constitutional processes.”

The White House statement echoed an appeal issued on Friday by Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, who is travelling in Asia with President Donald Trump.

Tillerson’s message seemed aimed mainly at Iran and Hezbollah.

Source: Al Jazeera