Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh on March 30, 2017. Bandar Al Jaloud / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP Photo
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh on March 30, 2017. Bandar Al Jaloud / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP Photo

Lebanon PM Hariri visits ally Saudi Arabia



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.

* Agence France-Presse

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