Lebanon was plunged into crisis in November when Hariri resigned as prime minister while in Saudi Arabia, saying he feared assassination and criticizing the Saudis’ regional rival Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Lebanese officials accused the Saudis at the time of holding Hariri hostage. After international intervention, including by Macron, Hariri was able to leave the kingdom and eventually rescinded his resignation.
“If France wasn’t listened to then there probably would be a war in Lebanon at this moment as we speak. It’s French diplomacy, it’s our action,” Macron said in an interview with broadcaster BFM TV, visibly irritated after being asked if his foreign policy over the last year had achieved anything.
Macron said an unscheduled stopover in Riyadh to convince Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, followed by an invitation to Hariri to come to France, had been the catalyst to ending the crisis.
“I remind you that a prime minister was held in Saudi Arabia for several weeks,” he said, a comment that could irk Riyadh which, like Hariri, denied he was ever held against his will.
Macron dined with Hariri and Prince Mohammed in Paris in April after a conference to rally international support for an investment program to boost the Lebanese economy.
Hariri, who visited Riyadh in February for the first time since the November crisis, is working to form a new coalition after a May 6 parliamentary election that strengthened his rival Hezbollah and its political allies.
Saudi denies Macron’s remarks on detaining Lebanon PM
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday denied French President Emmanuel Macron’s statements about holding Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri against his will last year.
In an interview with BFM TV last week, Macron hailed French diplomacy for maintaining peace in Lebanon.
“If France wasn’t listened to then, there probably would be a war in Lebanon at this moment, as we speak. It’s French diplomacy, it’s our action,” Macron said. “I remind you that a prime minister was held in Saudi Arabia for several weeks.”
But an official source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry described Macron’s remarks as “untrue”.
In a statement carried by the official SPA news agency, the source said the kingdom continues to support security and stability in Lebanon and “support Prime Minister Hariri by all means”.
The source accused Iran and its allies of dragging Lebanon and the region into instability, citing Shia group Hezbollah’s alleged involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri and killing French nationals in Lebanon.
“The kingdom is looking forward to working with French President Macron to confront the forces of chaos and destruction in the region, topped by Iran and its proxies,” the source said.