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Lebanese president to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar next week

January 4, 2017 at 1:42 am

President of Lebanon Michel Aoun [Ratib Al Safadi/Anadolu Agency]

The Lebanese President Michel Aoun will visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar next week to discuss bilateral ties and the situation in the region, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Qatar News Agency (QNA) quoted the director of the media office at the Republican Palace, Rafik Shalala, as saying that Aoun will visit Saudi Arabia on Monday and Tuesday, and the State of Qatar on Wednesday and Thursday.

Shalala added that Aoun, in his first official visit since he was elected last October, will discuss bilateral relations between Lebanon and the two countries as well as issues of common interest, and the situation in the region, according to QNA.

Aoun has received an official invitation from the Saudi monarch King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Emir of Qatar Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani to visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The invitations were handed by the Saudi president’s adviser Khalid Bin Faisal Al Saud and the Qatari foreign minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, during their visit to Beirut last November.

The Lebanese leader is expected to be accompanied by a high-ranking delegation, including Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil,Information Minister Melhem Riachi and the Economy Minister Raed Khoury.

The president visit came in protest at Saudi hostile stances over Lebanon’s alleged links to Hezbollah and Iran, which was been highlighted during an earlier Arab League meeting. A number of GCC states, including Saudi Arabia, have also warned its citizens against traveling to Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia has accused Hezbollah of backing Iran and influencing the Lebanese government’s strategic decisions. It denounced Lebanon’s military intervention in Syria, as fighting alongside Bashar Al-Assad’s regime since 2012.

In an event at the Grand Serial on Tuesday hosting the Lebanese businessmen in Jeddah, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri hailed Aoun’s visit to the kingdom, stressing that it will reflect “positively” on the two countries’ bilateral relations.

According to official sources, Aoun will also visit Egypt after his stops in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.