French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday (November 15) he has invited Lebanon’s prime minister Saad al-Hariri and his family to France, seeking to defuse a brewing crisis in the Middle East. Hariri announced his abrupt resignation as premier 12 days ago from the Saudi capital Riyadh, propelling Lebanon to the front of a regional contest for power between Saudi Arabia and Iran. President Emanuel Macron said the invitation was not an offer of political exile, and called it an “act of friendship.” President Macron said, “I spoke with (Saudi) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and (Lebanese) Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and we agreed that I would invite him for a few days in France with his family. It’s an act of friendship, and a strong will to contribute to a return to calm and stability in Lebanon,” the French president emphasized.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who has refused to accept his prime minister’s resignation, accused the Saudis of holding Hariri hostage – and called it an act of aggression against Lebanon. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied detaining Hariri or forcing him to resign his post. A Saudi official told TV7 that “Prime Minister Hariri made it clear in his statement that he was willing to withdraw from his decision to resign, only if the Shi’ite Hezbollah organization would respect Lebanon’s policy of disassociating itself from regional conflicts in support of its patron, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and would turn away from its aggressive conduct and commit to Lebanon’s laws.”