Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has accepted an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia, his office said, in what would be his first trip to the kingdom after he resigned under mysterious circumstances from the Saudi capital last year.
The announcement came at the end of a meeting Monday in Beirut that Hariri held with Saudi envoy Nizar al-Aloula and advisers to the Saudi royal court.
Hariri said he would visit Saudi Arabia “as soon as possible” and that the talks had been “excellent,” according to the statement.
Last November, Hariri announced he was resigning in a televised address from the Saudi capital, plunging Lebanon into a political crisis. During his 17-day stay in the kingdom, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun accused Saudi Arabia of orchestrating the resignation and holding the Prime Minister “hostage,” a view that was widely held in Lebanon. Riyadh has denied the claim.
After returning to Lebanon, Hariri withdrew his resignation, but questions remained about his relationship with Saudi Arabia, previously seen as his primary political patron.
Hariri attempted to answer some of those concerns in comments to journalists Monday.
“Saudi Arabia’s main objective is for Lebanon to be sovereign. It is also keen on the full independence of Lebanon,” the Prime Minister said.
Hariri said shortly after his return that his government, which he shares with Iran-backed Hezbollah, would reaffirm the so-called disassociation policy that stipulates that Lebanon stay out of the affairs of other Arab states.
Hezbollah has come under fire in recent years from local political groups and regional powerhouses including Saudi Arabia for its involvement in Syria, where it has helped prop up President Bashar al-Assad.
Saudi Arabia has also accused the group of supporting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, a charge Hezbollah denies.