“The newly elected Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, will soon visit Riyadh, in order to reactivate the Saudi-Lebanese relationships, which was affected by the Lebanese-Iranian rapprochement,” reported Lebanese local media on Sunday.
According to media reports, the new Lebanese president will ask Saudi Arabia to purchase French weapons for the Lebanese Armed Forces, which were halted in February 2016 when Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, refused to condemn Iranian attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.
Furthermore, it is expected that Foreign Minister of the caretaker government, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, will accompany “Aoun” on his visit to Saudi Arabia.
“Addiyar” the Lebanese newspaper said that the expected visit aims to restore the normal relations between Lebanon and the Kingdom for the benefit of the Lebanese.
Although the reports about the visit were widely circulated in the media, official Lebanese sources have denied that Aoun plans to visit Saudi Arabia.
“Lebanon debate” website, cited presidential sources denying the rumors about the preparations for Michel Aoun’s upcoming visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Despite the invitation was carried to Michel Aoun by the Saudi Minister of State for the Gulf Thamer Sabhan during his recent visit to Lebanon before the presidential election session, however, Aoun’s visit to Saudi Arabia will not take place immediately. The expected visit will be after the formation of the government and gaining the confidence of the parliament,” outlined Lebanon Debate.
Lebanese-Saudi relations warming up
“In Lebanon deal, Iran wins and Saudi retreats, titled Reuters after the election of Michel Aoun, Iran and Hezbollah’s ally, as the new Lebanese President.
However, the hypothesis that Saudi Arabia has lost in Lebanon and that the Kingdom does not have any interest there seems to be not true.
Before the Lebanese election, the Saudi Minister of State for the Gulf, Thamer Sabhan, visited Lebanon and held talks with most of the politicians there.
On the other hand, King Salman called Michel Aoun to congratulate him. Also Saad Elhariri, Lebanon’s new Prime Minister, met in Beirut with the ambassadors of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
That meeting came one day after the Lebanese president Michel Aoun met with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who made a high-profile visit to Beirut to support Iran’s ally.
During Elhariri’s meeting with the ambassadors of GCC, Hariri asserted that the election of general Michel Aoun as president of the republic, and the government that is being formed represent an opportunity to re-emphasize Lebanon’s Arab identity and restore the warmth to Lebanon’s relations with its brotherly countries in the GCC.
Certainly there will be a new chapter in the Saudi-Lebanese relations, but it seems that Saudi Arabia will not neglect the Lebanese issue, especially due to Michele Aoun’s attempts to repair the strained ties with Saudi Arabia.
In an article titled “On Aoun’s most difficult task”, published in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Turki Aldakhil, the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, said that Lebanon is “the country which Saudi kings since the days of King Faisal until the era of King Salman have looked after,” adding that Saudi Arabia will not give it up.
Aldakhil also welcomed that Aoun for the first time ever adopted the Taif Agreement and voiced the importance of its implementation while reminding of Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty and importance of distancing it from the crises in its surrounding countries.
“The biggest affair which Aoun must address is that of the struggle between the “state” and those who desire the state of “no state”, said Turki Aldakhil in his article.
Lebanon hopes to “restore the normal situation”
In a recent declaration, caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told The Daily Star that Lebanon would like to restore bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia to reach “the normal situation” with Riyadh”.
He also added that “Aoun was Hezbollah’s ally when he was the head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, but became an ally of all Lebanese when he was elected president.”
This official new tendency in the speech of Gebran Bassil specifically Indicates the presence of a new plan in sight. This new plan has begun by choosing Saad Elhariri, Saudi Arabia’s ally as prime minister, and it is still going on courting Saudi Arabia by announcing that the first regional official visit of Michel Aoun will be to the Kingdom.
It is noteworthy that relations between the two countries deteriorated after Saudi Arabia halted $4 billion in military grants to Lebanon and warned its citizens against traveling to the country in February.