King Salman and Lebanese ex-PMs hold ‘positive and excellent’ talks over stalemate

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The king received former Lebanese Prime Ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam. (SPA)
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The king received former Lebanese Prime Ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam. (SPA)
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The king received former Lebanese Prime Ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam. (SPA)
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Updated 16 July 2019

King Salman and Lebanese ex-PMs hold ‘positive and excellent’ talks over stalemate

  • The king received former Lebanese Prime Ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam
  • Saudi Arabia stresses ‘keenness on Lebanon’s security and stability’ during visit by three former premiers to Kingdom

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.”

FAST FACTS

  • Top Saudi officials attended the meeting, which lasted for 35 minutes. Lebanese leaders stressed the need to return to the 1989 Taif Agreement.

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.


‘Dare to dream,’ football hero Thierry Henry tells Saudi fans

Footballing great Thierry Henry thrills fans as he signs 10 footballs on stage and tosses them to the audience. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 20 min 33 sec ago

‘Dare to dream,’ football hero Thierry Henry tells Saudi fans

  • Fans got up close and personal with the former champion during a segment called the lightning round, where Henry had to answer questions in 10 seconds

DHAHRAN: Stepping onto the Tanween stage in front of a sold-out venue full of cheering fans, footballing great Thierry Henry was quick to say how “hyped” he was to meet his Saudi supporters.
As a guest and speaker at Tanween Season, the former Arsenal striker and French international faced a busy schedule on Saturday after arriving at King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran.
First, he had a “meet and greet” with fans, many wearing Arsenal shirts, which was quickly followed by a discussion of the theme for this year’s event, “Play.”
After two young footballers from Riyadh performed a series of tricks that included balancing a football on one leg, then kicking it in the air to land on their backs, Henry said: “I would have broken my back trying to do that. It’s not easy.”
On his second visit to Saudi Arabia — the first was to Riyadh last year — Henry said that he was impressed by this year’s Tanween theme since he had seen firsthand the results of a children’s quality-of-life program at Tanween.
“What I liked most was to see the smiles on the faces of those children when I was walking around the impressive building. Being able to dream is key for me, but seeing how the youngsters were interacting, and how happy they were with their families walking around, was just priceless,” he said.
Growing up, Henry’s father played an important role in his development. The footballer did not miss a beat when answering that his father was his idol. “My dad was the hardest man to please; to put a smile on his face was the hardest thing to do,” he said.
Although the footballer grew up in a “not so great” Paris neighborhood, he considered it an enriching cultural experience. “It was great for me at the time because it allowed me to travel, although I wasn’t really traveling,” he said.
France’s colonial history meant he was exposed to different cultures early in his life.
“If I going upstairs to have couscous, to the second floor to have Senegalese food, or to eat with the Portuguese downstairs, it allowed me to travel, staying where I was,” he explained.
During his talk Henry showed that his Arabic extends to common niceties such as “shukran,” “afwan” and “alsalamau alaikum.”
Having an impact on the English Premier League and his role in Arsenal’s record-breaking era almost two decades ago are more important to him that being considered the world’s best striker, he said. As for his favorite stadium, Henry was quick to choose Highbury.
Offering advice to younger Saudis in the audience, Henry urged them to face their problems calmly and cleverly.
“Don’t run away. Face it and don’t be scared to fail. Come back again, but smarter,” he said.
Fans got up close and personal with the former champion during a segment called the lightning round, where Henry had to answer questions in 10 seconds. That revealed that he has always admired Muhammad Ali as the greatest, Messi is his current favorite football player and winning the World Cup was the most memorable moment in his career.
After the talk, Henry thrilled the crowd — a reminder of his playing days — by tossing 10 footballs to lucky fans who cheered as he left the stage.