What King Abdullah told Lebanon president, Hariri at Riyadh palace

What King Abdullah told Lebanon president, Hariri at Riyadh palace
Tue Nov 12, 2013 07:45:02

President Michel Sleiman and Saudi King Abdullah have called for maintaining security and political and economic stability in Lebanon, while stressing the need for the rival factions to abide by the Baabda Declaration to shield the country from the negative fallout of the war in Syria.

The joint Lebanese and Saudi declaration came during a Monday meeting held between Sleiman and Abdullah at the latter’s palace in Riyadh, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The meeting, attended by top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Salman and the Saudi ministers of foreign affairs, interior and information, and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, discussed the situation in the region, particularly in Syria and ongoing consultations to convene Geneva II peace conference, and the attitudes of the internal [Syrian] parties and those concerned with this issue, the NNA said.

The Lebanese and Saudi sides “stressed the need to find a political solution to stop the killings and destruction” in Syria.

The two sides discussed ways to boost bilateral relations between their countries and the role the kingdom could play to help bolster unity and stability in Lebanon, the NNA said.

The talks also underlined “the importance of strengthening the moderation line in political stances and the implementation of the Baabda Declaration, which calls for distancing Lebanon from [regional] conflicts and alliances, especially since Lebanon is going through delicate political and economic circumstances ahead of a major issue,” it added.

It was referring to the election of a new president when Sleiman’s six-year-term in office expires in May 2014.

The Lebanese and Saudi sides also discussed the issue of 1.3 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon, posing a heavy burden on the cash-strapped country.

The Saudi monarch said the kingdom was ready to extend aid to Lebanon to help it cope with these burdens pending the return of the refugees to their country, NNA said.

Before returning to Beirut Tuesday, Sleiman will meet Hariri to discuss how to break the seven-month-long Cabinet deadlock, media reports said.

Contrary to custom during trips abroad, Sleiman was not accompanied by any minister on his visit to Saudi Arabia. He arrived in Riyadh earlier Monday accompanied only by some political advisers. The president was scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia in late September, but the trip was postponed by the Saudi side.

Political sources in Beirut said Sleiman, in his talks with Saudi officials, would encourage the resumption of Saudi-Iranian dialogue because he believed that a rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran would reflect positively on the situation in Lebanon.

Sleiman’s visit to Saudi Arabia coincided with a fierce campaign launched by Hezbollah against Saudi Arabia and its key ally in Lebanon, the Future Movement, which the party blames for the Cabinet deadlock and paralysis in Parliament.

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Assiri has denied Hezbollah’s accusations that Riyadh was obstructing the formation of a new Cabinet.

Lebanon has been without a functioning government for more than seven months because of divisions between the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and the March 14 coalition over the conflict in Syria.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam’s attempts to form a new government have foundered on conditions and counter-conditions set out by the March 8 and March 14 parties over the shape of the Cabinet.

Salam, in remarks published Monday, said Cabinet formation had become “more difficult,” vowing not to step down despite hurdles facing his task.

Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah said the March 14 coalition was not in a position to impose its conditions on the formation of a new Cabinet.

“The March 14 side is not in a local or regional position that can impose its conditions [for Cabinet formation]. [Even] when it thought it was in a position to do so [in the past], it could not,” Fadlallah said during a ceremony marking Hezbollah’s Martyrs’ Day in the southern town of Bint Jbeil.

The Future Movement has said that Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria and its commitment to the Baabda Declaration were essential for any partnership government with the party.