Resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Saturday that he will be present in Lebanon on Wednesday to attend the country’s Independence Day celebrations.
He made his remarks from Paris where he received a warm reception by President Emmanuel Macron.
The Lebanese official, his wife and son were treated to a lunch at the Elysee presidential palace by Macron and his wife Brigitte.
This marks the second time that the two officials meet. They had previously held talks in Paris in September. Macron would later that month receive President Michel Aoun.
Prior to Hariri’s arrival in Paris, Macron had telephoned Aoun, who thanked him for his “efforts towards Lebanon,” said Elysee sources.
Hariri had arrived in Paris from the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh early on Saturday.
He thanked Macron for his “generous hospitality”, praising France on its “very positive role” in the region. He also highlighted the “historic” French-Lebanese ties.
On the political level, Hariri remained reticent, saying that he will be present in Lebanon for Independence Day.
“I will make my political stance after meeting with the president of the republic,” he stated.
He reiterated that he had tendered his resignation and that he will discuss this issue in Lebanon.
The Lebanese presidency confirmed on its official Twitter account that Hariri will be present in Lebanon on November 22.
This has not ended however speculation that Hariri would pay a visit to an Arab capital or two, such as Cairo and Amman, prior to his return to Beirut.
French presidential sources said that Macron’s invitation to Hariri to visit Paris was aimed at easing tensions and finding a solution to the crisis that erupted with the PM’s resignation on November 4.
Paris is aware that its role has not ended yet and it is aware of the depth of Lebanon’s crisis. Hariri’s resignation was merely a reflection of this crisis, said the sources.
They announced that Paris was ready to reach an agreement with United Nations chief Antonio Guterres and American and European officials to call for a meeting for the “International Support Group for Lebanon” to address the country’s crisis. The meeting could also see the participation of concerned foreign ministers.
The sources added however that no decision has yet been taken to hold this meeting.
If it is held, then it will be aimed at providing political support for Lebanon and pushing it towards preserving its stability.
The French concern has from the start been “protecting Lebanon’s stability and enabling its institutions to work normally.”
Paris is therefore continuing in communicating with all “influential sides on the Lebanese scene in order to provide a safety net for the country.”
To this end, Macron and French diplomatic efforts will continue to contact all sides, including Iran.
French officials on Saturday repeatedly underscored the need for Lebanon to adhere to its policy of disassociation from regional conflicts. The abandonment of this policy was one of the primary reasons that led Hariri to resign.
The question remains: what will happen after Hariri returns to Beirut?
French circles do not hide the fact that Paris, as well as Washington and a number of European capitals, are concerned over the situation in Lebanon.
They believe that Hariri’s return to Lebanon does not resolve the crisis, but it puts it out in the open in the country.
The circles refuse to have Paris to play the role of problem-solver at the expense of Lebanese officials to avoid being portrayed as a meddler in Lebanese affairs. They stressed that the Lebanese officials and politicians are responsible for resolving their crisis themselves.
Paris does however stress the need to preserve “internal Lebanese political balances”. It also underlines the need for the establishment of a strong state that alone has control over security issues and protecting Lebanon. This effectively means tackling the contentious issue of “Hezbollah’s” possession of arms.
On Macron’s telephone call with Aoun, the French sources said that Paris wants to play the role of “facilitator” in dialogue between various Lebanese factions.