Saudi Arabia invites Hariri to visit despite previous 'detention'
A prominent Saudi envoy is visiting Beirut to discuss improving relations with Saudi Arabia and deliver an invitation to Prime Minsiter Saad Hariri to Riyadh, whose shock resignation in November last year from the Saudi capital sparked rumours of his captivity.
Envoy, Nizar al-Aloula, who is visiting Lebanon for four days, is set to meet Lebanese President Michel Aoun to discuss bilateral ties and the general affairs of the region. He expected to hand Aoun a letter from Saudi King Salman.
Aloula confirmed on Monday that he will invite Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Riyadh, despite the troubled history, local media reported.
Included in Aloula’s delegation is the new Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid al-Yaacoub, and former Saudi Embassy Charge d’Affaires Walid Bukhari.
Aloula will have meetings with various officials including Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, Phalange Christian Democratic political party leader Sami Gemayel and parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri.
Both Geagea and Gemayel met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman when they visited Riyadh last year.
Hariri plunged Lebanon into crisis after he announced from Riyadh that he would be resigning from his role as Prime Minister on November 4.
Hariri, a Saudi citizen, was later forced to deny an ongoing belief that Saudi authorities had held him hostage during his extensive stay on social media and a TV interview, amid a wide-ranging purge affecting hundreds of royals and businessmen.
Concerns for his wellbeing arose after he took part in one TV interview mid-November in which he denied he was being held against his will in the kingdom and said he was compelled to resign to save Lebanon from imminent dangers, which he didn’t specify.
During the interview, he appeared distressed and tired and was caught holding back tears.
"I am free to travel tomorrow if I wanted to. But I have a family. I saw what happened when my father was martyred. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my children," Hariri alleged.