After Tweeting that he is on his way to the airport in Saudi Arabia, it has been confirmed that Saad Hariri is now in Paris, thus confirming earlier statements from French authorities that the “former” Lebanese Prime Minister would be in France in “a matter of days”.
On the 4th of November, Hariri appeared on state-run Saudi television to announce he had resigned. However, with almost all observers believing that the statement was Saudi authored and forced upon Hariri, Lebanese authorities still recognise him as a legitimate Prime Minister who must come to Beirut if he wishes to formally resign.
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Riyadh for talks with the Saudi leadership. It appears that during these meetings, Macron was able to negotiate the subsequent release of Hariri to French authorities.
It is still not clear if Hariri’s visit to France is designed to ensure an orderly repatriation to Lebanon which the Saudi authorities apparently forbade, or whether he seeks to remain in France for the foreseeable future. Pres-TV reports that Hariri has finally spoken to Lebanese President Michel Aoun over the phone. Hariri is reported to have told the President that he will arrive back in Lebanon in time for Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday. However, given the tense and often confused atmosphere surrounding Hariri, it is still not entirely clear whether he will make good on his word.
According to the statements he read in Saudi Arabia, which were almost certainly written by a Saudi hand, Hariri claimed that he feared for his life were he to return to Lebanon, even though Lebanon’s military, police and other major political figures debunked these claims as nonsense.