Hariri Arrives in Beirut after Talks in Egypt, Cyprusإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrived late on Tuesday at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport, returning to a country which has been reeling from his surprise resignation since he announced it from Riyadh on November 4.
Hariri arrived in Beirut from Cyprus, where he met with Cypriot President Nikos Anastasides.
Hariri's media office said he earlier met in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has sought to defuse the tensions between Hariri's sponsors in Saudi Arabia and the powerful Lebanese Hizbullah and its Iranian patrons.
Hariri said he and Sisi discussed the need for "distancing oneself from regional policies," in an apparent reference to the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has played out in Lebanon.
"Tomorrow we have Independence Day in Lebanon, God willing it will be for all Lebanese. Like I said in Paris, my political position will be (clarified) in Lebanon," he said.
A statement from the Egyptian presidency said Sisi "affirmed the need for all parties in Lebanon to reach a consensus... and the rejection of foreign interference in Lebanese internal affairs."
Hariri's arrival in Beirut on Tuesday evening follows two weeks of deep uncertainty after he announced his resignation on November 4 in a speech from Saudi Arabia.
Sisi's office said he received a phone call from President Michel Aoun in which they discussed "the importance of preserving Lebanon's stability and elevating Lebanon's national interests."
Hariri later flew from Egypt to Cyprus to meet President Anastasiades for talks on "the latest developments in Lebanon and the region," the premier's office said.
Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides tweeted that the two leaders had a "warm and fruitful" meeting.
Hariri's failure to return to Lebanon since his resignation had sparked rumors he was being held in Riyadh against his will, which both he and Saudi officials have denied.
Speaking after talks in Paris on Saturday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is also seeking to broker a way out of the crisis, Hariri said he would "make known my position" once back in Beirut.
Hariri's mysterious decision to step down -- which Aoun has refused to accept while he remains abroad -- has raised fears over Lebanon's fragile democracy.
In his resignation speech he accused Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran and Hizbullah of destabilizing Lebanon.
Hariri -- whose father, former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, was killed in a 2005 car bombing blamed on Hizbullah -- took over last year as head of a shaky national unity government which includes the powerful Shiite movement.
A dual Saudi citizen who has previously enjoyed Riyadh's backing, he resigned saying he feared for his life.
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir meanwhile insisted from Madrid on Friday that "unless Hizbullah disarms and becomes a political party, Lebanon will be held hostage by Hizbullah and, by extension, Iran.”
- Battle for influence -
Hariri's resignation was widely seen as an escalation of the battle for influence between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, which back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
His attempt to step down also coincides with a purge of more than 200 Saudi princes, ministers and businessmen.
Riyadh on Saturday recalled its ambassador to Berlin in protest at comments by Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel which were interpreted as a suggestion that Hariri acted under Saudi orders.
Without mentioning Saudi Arabia directly, Gabriel had said Thursday that he shared concerns about the threat of instability and bloodshed in Lebanon and warned against "adventurism."
"Lebanon has earned the right to decide on its fate by itself and not become a pinball of Syria or Saudi Arabia or other national interests," he said in the week.
Germany's foreign ministry had yet to comment on the row, but in a statement it welcomed Hariri's "imminent return to Lebanon."
France, which held mandate power over Lebanon for the first half of the 20th century, plans to bring together international support for Lebanon, depending on how the situation develops.
The French president has also telephoned his counterparts in the U.S. and Egypt, Donald Trump and Sisi, as well as the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss "the situation in the Middle East."
He and Trump "agreed on the need to work with allies to counter Hizbullah’s and Iran's destabilizing activities in the region," according to a White House statement Saturday.
However, Macron told reporters Friday that France wanted "dialogue" with Iran and aimed to "build peace… not to choose one side over another."