RIYADH // Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri has held talks with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his first visit to the kingdom since returning to the post in November.
The Hariri family’s decades-long ties to the Saudi monarchy cooled last year over financial troubles involving the construction giant led by the billionaire politician.
Mr Hariri, who was born in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Riyadh on King Salman’s private plane on Wednesday after they attended an Arab League summit in Jordan, state media said on Thursday.
He met with Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s defence minister, for talks on “bilateral relations and developing situations across the Middle East”, the SPA state news agency said.
Mr Hariri, the son of assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, last visited the kingdom in April 2015 after King Salman’s accession to the throne.
His relations with Riyadh were tested the following year by the woes of Saudi Oger, the construction giant headed by Mr Hariri which has gone months without paying workers’ salaries.
Saudi Arabia’s ties with Lebanon have also become increasingly tense in recent years over Hizbollah’s expanding role in the government and its backing of the Syrian regime.
In 2016, Riyadh declared Hizbollah a “terrorist organisation” and urged its citizens to leave Lebanon.
It also suspended financial aid to the Lebanese army over what it viewed as the rise of Hizbollah, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran.
Lebanese president Michel Aoun, an ally of Hizbollah, chose Saudi Arabia for his first visit abroad after he took office in October, in a bid to bridge the gap with one of his country’s main financial backers.
The kingdom has always been the main supporter of Mr Hariri’s Sunni community, which represents a main faction in the country’s sectarian politics.
Most influential figure
Prince Mohammed bin Salman has topped the Lloyd’s List of the 10 most influential figures in oil and gas shipping.
In determining the 10 most powerful figures this year, Lloyd’s List specialists gave each candidate a score of 1 to 10 in two metrics, “market weight” and “aura.”
In its editorial, Lloyd’s List said: “The changing dynamics in the tanker spectrum have been duly reflected in our annual list of the 10 most influential figures in oil and gas shipping.
“What remains unchanged is the status of Saudi Arabia, with its weight over global oil production and large national tanker fleet.”
With a market weight of 8.7/10, Lloyd’s List describes the deputy crown prince as “the power behind the executives.”
“The deputy crown prince holds (key) dynamics in his hands, hence his position among shipping’s elite power brokers,” it said. “On top of that, he oversees Saudi Arabia’s plans to make an initial public offering of shares in oil giant Saudi Aramco.”
The editorial concluded by stating that “Saudi Arabia is evidently on the cusp of major changes to its energy industry as the deputy crown prince forges ahead with modernization — changes that astute owners operating in the tanker industry would do well to monitor closely to keep a step ahead of the competition.”