Lebanon’s former prime minister Saad Hariri does not appear to be being held prisoner in Saudi Arabia and is free move at will, the French government said Friday after a surprise visit to Riyadh by President Emmanuel Macron.
The French leader flew into the Saudi capital for meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the Middle East remained transfixed by the fate of Mr Hariri, who resigned abruptly last weekend and has been in Saudi Arabia ever since.
Many Lebanese have speculated that their former prime minister is effectively under house arrest in Riyadh but Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister said he believed Mr Hariri was free to move.
“As far as we know, yes. We think he is free of his movements and it’s important he makes his own choices,” he told Europe 1 radio.
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, also said there was “no indication” that Mr Hariri was being held and that he had received assurances from the Saudis that Mr Hariri was at liberty.
“As you probably know [Hariri] is a dual citizen of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. His family has been living in Saudi Arabia for quite some time by his choice, so the foreign minister assured me this was a decision taken solely by him,” Mr Tillerson said.
He called for Mr Hariri to return to Beirut “so that the government of Lebanon can function properly”.
The French ambassador to Saudi Arabia met with Mr Hariri on Thursday, ahead of Mr Macron’s unscheduled visit. It was not clear if Mr Macron himself had any contact with the Lebanese politician.
Paris has close ties with Lebanon, a former colony, and with Mr Hariri, who has a home in France after spending several years in the country. “Our concern is the stability of Lebanon and that a political solution can be put in place rapidly,” Mr Macron said.
Mr Hariri has met with Western diplomats since announcing…