Lebanon President Michel Aoun is planning to visit Saudi Arabia on Monday and Tuesday next week, after which he will tour several Arab countries including Egypt, according to Tuesday’s Lebanese media reports .
“President Aoun will brief the Cabinet on the completion of the preparations for making his first foreign trip since he was elected president,” An Nahar daily said.
“He will visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on January 9 and 10 and he will then head directly to Qatar,” the daily added.
The president will be accompanied by a large ministerial delegation comprising Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Information Minister Melhem Riachi and Economy Minister Raed Khoury.
Al-Hayat newspaper meanwhile quoted “official sources” as saying that Aoun will visit Cairo after his stops in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The dates of Aoun’s visits to some Arab countries “have been confirmed,” the official sources added.
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Khaled al-Faisal invited last November during his visit to Lebanon the recently-elected President Michel Aoun, a close ally of the Iran-backed group Hezbollah, to visit Saudi Arabia.
In a statement issued after the talks, Aoun stressed Lebanon’s keenness on “strengthening the Lebanese-Saudi ties,” hailing “the stances that Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz has taken to support Lebanon.”
He also thanked the Saudi leadership “for the treatment that the Lebanese are receiving in the kingdom,” noting that “they have worked and will always work for the kingdom’s welfare and prosperity.”
New Consulate building in Jeddah
In a related development Prime Minister Saad Hariri received Tuesday evening at the Grand Serail a delegation of Lebanese businessmen in Jeddah, in the presence of the Consul General of Lebanon in Jeddah Ziad Atallah and the head of the Lebanese Saudi Business Council Raouf Abu Zaki.
Atallah congratulated Hariri on the formation of the government and added: “We wanted to inform you today about the activities of the consulate and the community, and the latest was the establishment of a huge building for the consulate in Jeddah, funded by Lebanese and Saudis businessmen with about 15 million dollars, which made it the most important mission of Lebanon abroad. And we hope that the relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia will regain their previous status and that Saudi nationals will be allowed by their government to come to Lebanon”.
Hariri responded by telling the delegation:
“Your presence in the Gulf is very important and vital for Lebanon. You paid at some point the price of some political practices, but this division ended, and I will work so it does not come back. The country today is better, politically and even psychologically, and we hope that this reflects positively on all levels. I consider that President Michel Aoun’s visit to the Saudi Arabia will be significant, especially that the Kingdom attaches a lot of importance to it. The president also wanted it to be his first visit abroad, and this will reflect positively on you hopefully. ”
Hariri added: “We will follow up on all things concerning the Lebanese diaspora, and will do whatever is needed to encourage all citizens to return to Lebanon, invest in it and work for it. We must work to restore the confidence of all Lebanese, and we are putting plans for the rehabilitation of various sectors of infrastructure, electricity, water, communication, hospitals, schools and others.”