Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he will return to Lebanon for Wednesday s Independence Day celebrations and explain his situation, after his shock resignation announcement in Saudi Arabia sparked political turmoil.
Speaking after talks in Paris on Saturday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking to broker a way out of the crisis, Hariri said he would “make known my position” once back in Beirut.
“As you know I have resigned, and we will discuss that in Lebanon,” he said told reporters, saying he needed to meet with President Michel Aoun before taking further steps.
Hariri s announcement follows two weeks of deep uncertainty after his surprise decision to step down on November 4.
His failure to return to Lebanon since then sparked rumours that he was being held in Riyadh against his will, which both he and Saudi officials denied.
“To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie,” he said in a Twitter post just before flying to Paris overnight.
Hariri s wife and eldest son Houssam joined him for lunch with Macron at the Elysee Palace, but their two younger children, who live in Saudi Arabia, have remained there “for their school exams”, a source close to the premier said.
“Hariri does not want to mix his children up in this affair,” the source said.
His mysterious decision to step down — which Aoun has refused to accept while Hariri remains abroad — has raised fears over Lebanon s fragile democracy.
Hariri s camp has sought to allay the concerns, with a source saying the premier had a “fruitful and constructive” meeting with the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman before leaving.
Hariri, a dual Saudi citizen who has previously enjoyed Riyadh s backing, resigned saying he feared for his life.
He accused Saudi Arabia s arch-rival Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilising his country.
– Battle for influence –
Hariri s resignation was widely seen as an escalation of the battle for influence between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, which back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
His attempt to step down also coincides with a purge of more than 200 Saudi princes, ministers and businessmen.
Hariri met French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Riyadh on Thursday as Paris, which held mandate power over Lebanon for the first half of the 20th century, seeks to ease the crisis.
In another development, Riyadh on Saturday recalled its ambassador to Berlin in protest at comments by Germany s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel which were interpreted as a suggestion that Hariri acted under Saudi orders.
Without mentioning Saudi Arabia directly, Gabriel had said Thursday that he shared concerns about the threat of instability and bloodshed in Lebanon and warned against “adventurism”.
“Lebanon has earned the right to decide on its fate by itself and not become a pinball of Syria or Saudi Arabia or other national interests,” he had said earlier in the week.
Germany s foreign ministry had yet to comment on the row, but in a statement it welcomed Hariri s “imminent return to Lebanon”.