Hariri Says Govt. Formation 'Not Put on Hold', Confirms He'll Travel to KSA
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Tuesday announced that he will travel to Saudi Arabia Wednesday to take part in an international investment conference boycotted by several politicians and business leaders in connection with Jamal Khashoggi's case.
Speaking to reporters ahead of an al-Mustaqbal bloc meeting, Hariri also noted that the government formation process “has not been put on hold.”
He also denied that al-Mustaqbal Movement has decided to give away one of its portfolios in the new government.
Earlier in the day, Hariri threw his support behind Saudi Arabia, which is facing global outrage over the murder of Khashoggi -- a Saudi journalist and government critic -- at its Istanbul consulate.
Hariri's comments came less than a year after he resigned in mysterious circumstances in a televised address from the Saudi capital, sparking rumors he was being held there against his will.
"The measures taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the case of journalist Jamal Khashoggi... come within the framework that serves the path of justice and the disclosure of the whole truth," a statement from his office quoted him as saying.
A tough critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to collect paperwork for his marriage.
A few days later, a Turkish government source said police believed he was murdered by a team sent to Istanbul, and on October 17, a Turkish newspaper said he was tortured and decapitated inside the consulate.
The case has tarnished the image of the crown prince, and caused policymakers and business titans to cancel their planned attendance at a key investment forum that opened in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Hariri said the directives of "King Salman bin Abdulaziz would put things in the right direction and contribute to respond to the malicious campaigns targeting the kingdom," the statement said.
Turkey has said the murder of Khashoggi was "savagely planned."
Saudi Arabia has long been a key ally of Hariri, while Riyadh's regional foe Iran backs Lebanon's armed party Hizbullah.
But in November last year, Hariri announced he was stepping down in a televised address from the Saudi capital, causing observers to speculate he was being held against his will.
After French mediation, he rescinded his resignation the following month, and Saudi Arabia has denied intimidating Hariri into quitting his post.
Hariri was named premier for a third term in May after Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in nine years, but has since struggled to form a cabinet.