BEIRUT/JEDDAH: A meeting on Monday between King Salman and three former Lebanese prime ministers to discuss the “political stalemate” in Beirut was described as “positive and excellent.”
During talks held at the Peace Palace, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia stressed its “keenness on Lebanon’s security and stability and the importance of preserving Lebanon within its Arab environment.”
King Salman met former premiers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam to discuss the latest developments in Lebanon and review relations between the two countries.
Also present at the gathering, which lasted for 35 minutes, were Saudi Minister of State Dr. Musaed Al-Aiban, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Assistant Special Secretary to King Salman Tamim bin Abdul Aziz Al-Salem, Royal Court Adviser Nizar bin Sulaiman Al-Alula, and Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari.
According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Lebanese delegation sources revealed that the talks had been “positive and excellent.”
Following the meeting, Mikati said on Twitter: “We have reviewed the fraternal relations between the two countries and His Highness stressed the Kingdom’s keenness on Lebanon’s security and stability.”
The Lebanese delegation also met with Al-Assaf at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ premises in Jeddah.
Lebanese news websites quoted the delegation as saying that the Kingdom had stressed that “whatever affects Sunnis in Lebanon affects us in the Kingdom.”
Arriving in Jeddah on Monday for their one-day visit, the former PMs conveyed to King Salman a message from Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri on “strengthening the relationship between Lebanon and the Kingdom — a relationship that reflects respect for Lebanon and its independence and sovereignty.”
Speaking at Jeddah airport, Siniora said: “We have always had excellent and honest fraternal relations with Saudi Arabia, and this visit emphasizes the importance of this relationship.
“No doubt Lebanon and the region are going through a difficult period, and due to these major developments, it is important and necessary to return to the fundamentals that unite the Lebanese people.
“It is also important to return to the Taif Agreement (the 1989 accord to provide the basis for the ending of the civil war and return to political normality in Lebanon) and to commit more to it and to the constitution that emerged from it and extended state authority over all of the Lebanese territory,” added Siniora.
“It is unacceptable to listen to rumors that say we want to change the law by practice or refrain from applying the law because we do not want it.
“We must also emphasize the importance of respecting Arab legitimacy and the Arab consensus. This is how Lebanon should face the challenges, because we are exposed to this difficult situation and because there are those who are trying to divide a bag of sand from Lebanon to use it to defend themselves.”
Ex-premier Siniora noted: “We do not wish for our country to become a battleground for major powers. Lebanon must unify its stance to face the challenges and, most importantly, it must commit to its policy of disassociation in words as well as actions.”
Describing their Saudi visit as “important and natural,” Salam said: “We enjoy a close, historical and continuous relationship with Saudi Arabia, and we expect more communication, especially under these difficult circumstances. We have been witnessing significant Saudi moves toward Lebanon, and the government is the one sponsoring these agreements.”
A source close to the former PMs told Arab News that the visit had been previously planned and had not been arranged in response to recent statements by secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah. The source said the visit was “to discuss the current situation in Lebanon. There is a political stalemate and an attempt from those who oppose Saudi Arabia to control the political decision in Lebanon.”
The ex-PMs had met with Hariri the evening before their visit to Jeddah, and the current Lebanese leader’s Future TV channel said that the delegation would “stress from Saudi Arabia Lebanon’s support for its Arab family and Saudi Arabia’s presence in Lebanon.”
Following an extraordinary meeting last month on Lebanon’s political crisis Mikati, Siniora and Salam said they rejected “prejudice to the powers of PM Hariri by anyone.”
They also refused “to compromise the delicate internal balances in light of some stances and practices aimed at starting arguments and opening controversial files, which had been launched by ministers and politicians, and especially that these had been resolved in the Taif Agreement and the constitution. The re-stirring of these files will lead to serious repercussions for national reconciliation and civil peace.”
In their statement, the trio had called on Lebanese President Michel Aoun to “put a definitive end to the provocative stances and practices that undermine the prestige of the covenant.”
Lebanese Cabinet sessions have been stalled since the end of June due to political tensions over the referral to the judicial council of an attack in Mount Lebanon by supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party against Minister Saleh Al-Gharib, who is close to the pro-Hezbollah minister, Talal Arslan.