PARIS: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived in France Saturday from Saudi Arabia, where his resignation announcement two weeks ago sparked accusations that he was being held there against his will.
Hariri is in Paris at the invitation of France's President Emmanuel Macron, who is attempting to help broker a solution to a political crisis that has raised fears over Lebanon's fragile democracy.
Hariri and his wife Lara, who landed at Le Bourget airport outside the French capital at 7:00 am (0600 GMT) after flying in from Riyadh overnight, were due to meet Macron at noon.
The couple were whisked to their Paris residence in a seven-car convoy under tight security.
Hariri, a dual Saudi citizen, has been in the Saudi capital since his televised announcement there on November 4 that he was stepping down because he feared for his life, accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilizing his country.
Shortly before leaving Riyadh for Paris, Hariri said in a tweet addressed to German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel that it was untrue he was being held in Saudi.
“To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport,” Hariri tweeted.
To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport Mr. Sigmar Gabriel.
— Saad Hariri (@saadhariri) November 17, 2017
Saudi Foreign Ministry Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday, “accusing Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri is completely baseless. It doesn’t hold merit as Hariri is free to go anywhere he wants,” adding that Hariri has some concerns about the security situation in Lebanon.
The Saudi foreign minister said Hezbollah is disturbing regional peace and stability by supporting Houthi militias in Yemen, suppressing the will of the Syrian people and violating Lebanese law. Hezbollah must learn to “respect Lebanon’s sovereignty,” he added.