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.


Pentagon confirms its ‘long-term’ commitment with Saudi Arabia

Updated 52 min 1 sec ago

Pentagon confirms its ‘long-term’ commitment with Saudi Arabia

  • The US removed two of its four Patriot anti-missile units from Saudi Arabia, earlier in May

DUBAI: The United States remains committed to long-term defense contracts with Saudi Arabia, Pentagon spokesman Sean Robertson told Arab News sister newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in a statement.

US forces maintain “strong capabilities” in various regional operations, including air defense, to deal with any emergencies related to Iran, Robertson was cited by the paper on Thursday.

Earlier in May the US removed two of its Patriot missile systems from Saudi Arabia.

But Robertson said this was about relocating, rather than removing.

“The Department of Defense is doing routine work in managing its power around the world,” he explained

“In light of the current global crisis, some of its equipment and forces are being rotated to address emerging threats and maintain preparedness.”

“We continue to work with the international community and the Saudi armed forces to strengthen regional air defense capabilities,” he said.

“This is a multi-lateral and long-term effort, as the US-Saudi defense partnership is long-term. And includes a group of cooperation to include the fight against terrorism, maritime security and air defense,” he said.

Washington aims to maintain its ability to increase its forces in the region in a short time, the US Naval Commander said.

The statement came shortly after the US and Saudi forces conducted a routine and joint sustainment training on and around Karan and Kurayn islands this week.

The training follows a training program that took place from April 20 to 22.

Commanding officer, Col. Trevor Hall said the US appreciated Saudi Arabia for allowing the US navy to train on these islands.

“Being able to train on these islands allows our team to expand upon our previous training by adding capabilities and assets from our partners in the region. The ability to plan and operate with other forces supports our ability to rapidly deploy aviation, maritime, and ground combat elements – all from over the horizon – at a moment’s notice in order to support maritime security, freedom of navigation, and the free flow of commerce,” Hall said.

The Saudi and US naval forces carried out deck operations, underwater beach surveys, maritime patrolling, boat lane security operations, and will establish a forward arming and refueling point for aviation assets to refuel.

“These islands in the Arabian Gulf provide our Navy-Marine Corps team an ideal setting to prepare for a wide range of operations, while exercising seamless integration with our highly qualified partners,” said Capt. Lance Lesher said.