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French president in Saudi Arabia amid regional tension

French President Emmanuel Macron has paid an unscheduled visit to Riyadh amid rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran

       

10 November 2017, 11:54am
Fresh President Emmanuel Macron made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia amid the Lebanon crisis.

Macron flew in from a visit to the United Arab Emirates after earlier declining to discuss a wave of high-level arrests for corruption in Saudi Arabia.

Macron was in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday to open the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a spin-off of the famous Paris art museum.  

He said it was vital to work with the kingdom for the stability of the region.

“They discussed the situation in Lebanon following the resignation of Prime Minister Hariri,” the French presidency said. “President Macron reiterated the importance France attaches to Lebanon’s stability, security, sovereignty and integrity.”

The first faee-to-face talks between Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman focused on regional tensions with Lebanon and Yemen, and  “ensuring the preservation of stability in the region”, the French presidency said in a statement after the meeting.

France has historical ties with Lebanon, after its former colonial power before it gained independence during World War Two.

Before the visit, the French President had said that all Lebanese officials should live freely, "which means having a very demanding stance on those who could threaten any leader".

His trip comes days after Lebanese PM Saad Hariri resigned in Riyadh, saying he feared for his life.

Lebanese PM resigned over fear of his life
Lebanese PM resigned over fear of his life
Two top Lebanese government officials said on Thursday that Riyadh was holding Lebaanon’s Saad al-Hariri captive and a third said that the Saudi authorities ordered Hariri to resign while he was in Riyadh last weekend, and put him under house arrest.

There were no details of any alleged public plot against Hariri.

Without giving details. Macron said he had informal contact with Hariri on Thursday, while France’s foreign minister said France believed he was able to move freely.

Macron has said he will travel to Iran in 2018, potentially becoming the first ever French president to travel to the area since 1971.