Riyadh dismisses Macron's claims it detained Lebanese prime minister

Riyadh dismisses Macron's claims it detained Lebanese prime minister
Macron took credit for diffusing a political crisis in Lebanon after Saad al-Hariri was reportedly held in Saudi Arabia after announcing his resignation last year.
2 min read
29 May, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Paris last year [Getty]
Saudi Arabia has dimissed claims by France's Emmanuel Macron that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri was detained in Riyadh for several weeks.

Macron on Monday claimed credit for solving the political crisis in Lebanon last year in which Hariri announced his resignation from Riyadh, saying he feared assassination and criticised the Saudis' regional rival Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizballah.

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 After international intervention, including by Macron, Hariri was able to leave the kingdom and eventually rescinded his resignation.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, 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 helped to end the crisis.

"I remind you that a prime minister was held in Saudi Arabia for several weeks," he said, despite Riyadh which, like Hariri, denying he was ever held against his will.

On Tuesday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry reiterated its denial, saying Macron's claims Hariri was detained were "not true".

"His Excellency French President Macron had said in an interview with France's BFM TV that Lebanese PM Saad Hariri was detained in Saudi Arabia. This is not true," the ministry said on Twitter.

"The lack of stability in Lebanon and the region has been caused by Iran and its proxies, including the terrorist Hezbollah, the militia involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and the killing of French nationals in Lebanon," the statement added.

The ministry added: "We are looking forward to working with France's Macron to confront forces of chaos and destruction in the region, mainly Iran and its proxies."

The statement added that "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has and will continue to support stability and security in Lebanon and to support the state of Prime Minister Saad Hariri through all means."

Agencies contributed to this report.