INFOGRAPHY - Saudi Arabia will let its ally Saad Hariri, expected in Paris, to work on a road map before returning to Lebanon.
Special Envoy to Riyadh
The crisis has been contained, but it remains to treat the roots. Saad Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister resigning, confined to Riyadh for ten days, accepted the invitation that Emmanuel Macron sent him to come to France. Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, is visiting Riyadh to finalize the deal with the Saudi authorities, which announced it Thursday morning. "He can leave when he wants," assured shortly after his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Joubeir.
Saad Hariri is expected to arrive Saturday in Paris for a few days with his family before returning to Beirut, said Lebanese President Michel Aoun. The person concerned was less precise: "I will tell you later," said Hariri from his residence where he had just received Jean-Yves Le Drian.
For nearly two weeks, his fate was the subject of contradictory information. President Aoun accused Arabia of "holdIn Riyadh, where he was kept, according to Michel Aoun, by private mercenaries. What Riyad denies, where the head of the Lebanese government announced his resignation on November 4, a year after he managed to form a government with Hezbollah in a country where the Saudis and Iranians clash through interposed.
Finally, the French determination paid off. Emmanuel Macron had two telephone conversations on Tuesday and Wednesday with the Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, new strongman of Arabia. "The president and MBS have also exchanged by SMS," says an informed source. For his part, Jean-Yves Le Drian had an hour of one-on-one talks with MBS on Wednesday night, while François Gouyette, the French ambassador to Riyadh, saw Saad Hariri twice. "He could get better," slips another of his visitors.
What will Hariri do now that he is free? "It's him who decides, says a French diplomat. Either he maintains his resignation, which is likely, or he believes he can correct the excesses he denounced. "These relate to the control of Hezbollah and its Iranian patron on the management of Lebanon. The next days of Saad Hariri in Arabia and Paris will be used to establish "a road map" to consolidate a way out of the crisis.
Saudis and French will remain at the maneuver. By inviting Hariri to Paris, Macron offered a way out to the Crown Prince. But Riyad is fighting hard against Hezbollah and Iran. To prevent the growing tension in Lebanon being translated into slippage, Paris intends to transmit messages to Iranians, Saudis but also to different Lebanese officials. "If we want to counter Hezbollah and its military apparatus," says one French diplomatic source, "we must strengthen the Lebanese state institutions, that is to say the army, the internal security forces, close to the camp. Hariri, and more broadly the political groups who want to rebalance the situation. "But Paris does not want to destabilize Lebanon, so no frontal attack or actions Saudi that could aggravate the situation, as the expulsion of Lebanese expats living in the Gulf.
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France intends to bring back its Saudi ally to a "less negative vision". But Riyad believes he was "cheated" in Lebanon. "When a year ago Michel Aoun was accepted by everyone as President of the Republic, the Saudis had told us OK, but it does not believe, says a French diplomat. Today, they find that Hariri was a blanket more than a bulwark against Hezbollah's expansionism. "Over the months, rancor has grown. Close to power, the journalist Adwan al-Ahmari makes a scathing description. "Saad Hariri was a puppet in the hands of Hezbollah," which forced him, for example, to accept the sending of a new ambassador to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the enemy of Arabia.
But beyond Lebanon and Syria, the kingdom has other grievances. "About eight months ago," said Adwan al-Ahmari, "the Saudis summoned Hariri to show him evidence of Hezbollah's destabilizing actions in Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait." The message was clear: "We are helping you in Lebanon, so act at home against Hezbollah!" And then again on November 4, a missile strike, intercepted over the Riyadh airport, from Yemeni territory , "An act of war," according to Arabia. This is the straw that broke the camel, say several French and Saudi sources. Riyadh and Paris are convinced that it is an Iranian missile, operated by the Houthists, thanks to the cooperation of Hezbollah experts.
If Saudi has given the impression to mistreat his ally Saad Hariri, it is also that the crown prince has reproaches to address him. "Hariri has Saudi nationality, so he was treated like corrupt Saudi princes," says a businessman in Riyadh, referring to the arrest of many members of the royal family, as well as wealthy businessmen, the same November 4th.
The anti-corruption committee accuses the Lebanese prime minister of having fattened himself up in Arabia. Saad Hariri was linked in business with Prince Abdel Aziz Ben Fahd, son of former King Fahd, and tycoon Bakr Bin Laden, both arrested at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh. "If the Saudis have let Saad go to Paris, it is because he has signed an acknowledgment of debt to Arabia, as the princes will have to do if they want to regain their freedom," he said. business. To finance its reforms, MBS wants to return to the coffers of the state the billions of corruption. But on this aspect of the crisis, Paris is much quieter. Rafic Hariri, father of Saad and prime minister assassinated in 2005 in Beirut, was very close to former President Jacques Chirac. In short, a crisis with multiple ramifications.
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Source: © How France is sponsoring an end to the crisis in the Hariri affair
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