Bassil Tells Saudi Arabia: We are not Hezbollah and your problem is with Iran not Lebanon

Gebran Bassil
Gebran Bassil

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil stressed on  Wednesday that Saudi Arabia should not act against entire Lebanon if it has a problem with Hezbollah or Iran.

“Our PM  is not Hezbollah and I’m not Hezbollah, and if Saudi Arabia has a problem with Iran, let it resolve it with Iran, not with Lebanon and the Lebanese,” said Bassil during a meeting in Rome with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano.

Bassil, who is closely allied with Hezbollah  however, noted that Lebanon is still seeking to resolve the latest crisis with Riyadh in a “bilateral” manner and that resorting to international law would be the last option.

“Our objective is to resolve the crisis bilaterally in order to restore the normal situation,” Bassil, who is visiting  several European capitals  to explain Lebanon’s position, said to  reporters.

He said it is “abnormal” for Lebanon’s prime minister to be in an “ambiguous” situation despite his announcement that he will return home.

“There is no reason that explains his failure to return to Lebanon and international conventions guarantee his freedom of movement and this is a sovereign matter,” Bassil added.

“To overcome this dilemma, let our PM  return to his country to express his opinion freely,” the FM went on to say.

“Certainly, we will only resort to dialogue to resolve our problems, but we reject interference in our affairs and we reject dictations. Let us end ambiguity through the return of our premier to Lebanon. We also reject any interference by Lebanon or the Lebanese in the affairs of other countries,” Bassil said.

He also denied receiving a phone a call from Hariri after reports said the premier had called Bassil to ask him to stop raising the issue of his family’s freedom of movement in Saudi Arabia.

Bassil later held talks in Rome with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, who was in the kingdom on Tuesday.

After talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Hariri, al-Rai said he was “convinced by the reasons for his (Hariri’s) resignation.” “He will return to Lebanon as soon as possible,” al-Rai promised.

Hariri has tweeted earlier that he is “doing very well” and that he will return from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon within days.

In his first TV interview since he announced a surprise resignation from Riyadh on November 4, Hariri said Sunday he will return to Lebanon to seek a new settlement with President Michel Aoun and Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Hariri denied he was being held against his will in the kingdom and said he was compelled to resign to save Lebanon from imminent dangers, which he didn’t specify.

A political crisis has gripped Lebanon since Hariri  announced his resignation   from Saudi Arabia  accusing Iran of meddling in Lebanon .

President Michel Aoun who is also allied with Hezbollah  was guarded in his first reactions to Hariri’s absence.

But on Wednesday he accused Saudi Arabia of  “detaining” Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

“What happened wasn’t a resignation — it was an attack on Lebanon’s independence and dignity,” he said Wednesday, adding that Hariri’s absence represented “a violation of the international declaration of human rights.”

But other Lebanese leaders are cautioning Aoun against alienating Saudi Arabia

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt on Wednesday urged against “declaring war” on Saudi Arabia.

“What happened with Sheikh Saad Hariri was extraordinary and unusual, and in my opinion the efforts to address the situation should be calm and in accordance to norms,” Jumblatt tweeted.

“Hariri will return as he confirmed, but NO to declaring war on the kingdom,” Jumblatt added.

Hariri heads to France

Hariri will travel to France “in the coming days,” a French presidential source said Wednesday.

The French presidency said Hariri and his family had been “invited” to France after President Emmanuel Macron spoke by telephone with both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Lebanese prime minister.

In his sharply worded resignation from Saudi Arabia, Hariri, 47, accused Iran and its proxy  Hezbollah of destabilizing Lebanon and the broader region.

The statement sparked concern that tiny Lebanon would be caught in the crosshairs of rising tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.

In his first media appearance since he stepped down, Hariri said on Sunday that he had freedom of movement and would return to Lebanon soon