Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutrous al-Rahi said that Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri will return to Lebanon as fast as possible, expressing, for the first time, his support for the reasons behind Hariri’s resignation.
Rahi held a series of meetings with several officials including the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, after which he heard from both the King and the Crown Prince “a Saudi anthem of love for Lebanon, its people and its land."
Patriarch Rahi also reported King Salman's love and support for Lebanon and the Lebanese community in the kingdom "who helped build Saudi Arabia and respected its laws and traditions."
Rahi asserted that nothing will affect the Lebanese-Saudi relations and pointed out that "even if the relations underwent certain circumstances, the friendship between the two countries will not be affected."
Asked when he expected Hariri to return to Lebanon, Rahi said: “I wish tonight ... we hope as soon as possible.” He stated that he is convinced and supports his reasons for resigning, adding that the Prime Minister must contact the Lebanese President, Speaker, and political leaders to explain the reasons for his resignation.
A source accompanying Rahi during his visit to Saudi Arabia, described the meetings held in the kingdom as "very positive" pointing that all issues had been discussed openly and amicably.
The source told Asharq al-Awsat that Islamic-Christian dialogue had been also discussed, stating that Rahi's 24-hours visit was all in all historic.
In addition, the source confirmed that Hariri-Rahi meeting was very good, stating that the PM is likely to return to Lebanon very soon. He also indicated that he doesn't expect the political crisis to prolong following the resignation.
Rahi left Riyadh on Tuesday evening heading to Rome, Italy, where he'll stay until the end of the week and will meet several Vatican officials.
Before leaving the kingdom, the Patriarch met with the Lebanese community residing in Saudi Arabia at the Lebanese embassy in Riyadh who expressed their fears of the negative influences of the crisis.
However, Rahi assured them: "We will maintain a strong friendship between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon," stating that the kingdom had always supported Lebanon during the toughest political, economic, and security stages.
"This is our history even if we have had stormy relations sometimes. (There) is a history of friendship with this dear kingdom," indicated the Patriarch, adding that several Saudi Kings and Princes had houses in Lebanon and loved this country.
Addressing the Lebanese community, Rahi said: "Saudis love and respect you, and on your behalf, I thank the King and Crown Prince for having you. We will maintain the friendship and brotherhood between both Lebanon and the kingdom."
Rahi also expressed that the Custodian's invitation to visit the kingdom consolidates the will to maintain the good relationship between the Maronite Patriarchate and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Maronite Church sources commented on Rahi's announcement concerning Hariri's resignation saying: "Who doesn't support the reasons for the resignation, namely involvement of part of Lebanese people in the affairs of Arab states precisely Syria and Yemen? Who doesn't want to re-establish the dissociation and neutral policy to avert Lebanon the crisis?"
Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, the sources considered that, seeking the national interest, Patriarch Rahi voiced Lebanese people's thoughts without siding with anyone.