Monday 15 October 2018
News ID: 46487
Publish Date: 14 November 2017 - 21:37

BEIRUT (Dispatches) -- The European Union's top diplomat Federica Mogherini called Tuesday for the return to Beirut of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his family to be assured, during a meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
"Hariri and his family's return to Lebanon is urgent in the coming days; (it) will support internal stability and will strengthen national unity within Lebanon," Mogherini was quoted as saying, in a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
Bassil and Mogherini met in Brussels, after the minister arrived in Belgium on the first leg of a tour that his office had said was an attempt to explain the "ambiguous” resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
"Lebanon is still dealing with the problem with Saudi Arabia, within the framework of brotherly bilateral relations," Bassil said. He added that his tour was part of an effort "to urge the kingdom (to understand) that what is happening is unacceptable.”
Bassil contacted in advance a number of international officials and foreign ministers, who affirmed their support for Lebanon’s "unity, sovereignty and freedom,” the statement said.
Hariri’s shock resignation on Nov. 4, announced while the premier was in Riyadh, has ground Lebanon’s government to a halt and destabilized the region.
Hariri has not yet returned to Beirut, but said in a wide-ranging interview Sunday – his first public statement since the televised resignation address – that he would be back in Lebanon in "two or three days.”
Hariri wrote on Twitter Tuesday that he is "fine” and will be returning to Lebanon in the coming days.
"I am fine and God willing I am coming back in the coming days. Let us remain calm," he said. "My family is staying in their country, Saudi Arabia," he said.
Foreign Ministry sources have told The Daily Star that although the visit schedule remains tentative, Bassil was set to meet with senior French and Russian leaders later this week, in addition to his sit-down with Mogherini.
Mogherini called Monday for "no external interference” in Lebanon. "We believe it is essential to avoid importing into Lebanon regional conflicts, regional tensions, that have to stay out of the country,” she said in a news conference.
Mogherini said that the EU’s foreign ministers while meeting in Brussels Monday had voiced unanimous support for Lebanon’s "unity and stability.”
Bassil’s meetings with European leaders come ahead of an extraordinary emergency Arab League meeting set to be held Saturday in Cairo.
Saudi Arabia called for the summit Sunday, with the support of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The request was approved by the league’s current head, Djibouti.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel Tuesday expressed "fears that the country (Lebanon) will become a puppet of Syria, Saudi Arabia or any other country.”
In a statement Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian echoed Mogherini’s support for Lebanon’s sovereignty.
"In order for there to be a political solution in Lebanon, political officials must certainly have a total freedom of action and non-intervention is the fundamental principle,” he said.
Few in the Lebanese capital believe Hariri stepped down on his own volition. Most speculate that he’s being prevented from returning to Lebanon.
What is still murky is why Saudi Arabia, a long time supporter of Hariri, would want him to step down.

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