A few seconds of silence, then Lebanon picks up the phone. The moment is “important” in the opinion of Lebanese diplomats. At the end of the line, two leaders and the promise of peaceful diplomatic relations.
So Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have been cold for a few months, the representatives of the two nations discussed on the phone this Saturday. France took part in the exchanges, from the royal palace in Jeddah, the last stage of a two-day tour of the Gulf for Emmanuel Macron.
“The meeting I had with President Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman is an important step towards resuming historic fraternal relations with Saudi Arabia,” said Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, after hung up.
Beirut and Riyadh no longer spoke to each other
It has been several weeks since Beirut and Riyadh no longer spoke to each other. At the end of October, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Ben Salman, recalled his ambassador to Beirut at the end of October and expelled the Lebanese ambassador from his territory, causing an open diplomatic quarrel between the two nations.
For Mohammed Ben Salman, these sanctions are commensurate with the outrage allegedly committed by Lebanese Information Minister Kordahi, by criticizing the military intervention carried out by the Saudi kingdom at the head of a coalition in Yemen and defending the rebels Pro Iranian Houthis in this country.
After these remarks, Riyadh also banned imports from Lebanon, and three other Gulf countries – Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait took retaliatory measures against Beirut. Kordahi has since resigned and these diplomatic measures have deeply aggravated the collapse of the Lebanese economy.
France wants to be a privileged interlocutor
Thus, by participating in the organization of this telephone interview, France is trying to position itself as a privileged interlocutor in the region, while the Gulf countries are seeking to diversify their interactions with the West, with American attention now turned to the ‘Asia.
Before working for this Lebanese-Saudi warming, Emmanuel Macron went to Qatar and the Emirates, where he notably recorded the sale of 80 Rafale fighter jets. Airbus and Veolia also signed a major contract with Saudi Arabia during this tour.
Paris and Riyadh promise to work together for Lebanon
Criticized for the resumption of discussions with Ben Salman, accused by the American intelligence services of having ordered the assassination of Khashoggi in 2018, Emmanuel Macron spoke of the importance of maintaining dialogue with Saudi Arabia, because of its “demographic, economic, historical and religious weight”.
Paris and Riyadh will thus “work together, support reforms, allow Lebanon to emerge from the crisis and preserve its sovereignty,” Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter shortly after the phone call.
“Our will is also that the government (Lebanese) can work in a normal way, and meet as quickly as possible, and carry out the useful reforms”, he added to the press, specifying that he would call on Sunday the Lebanese president Michel Aoun.