Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, returned to his home country late on Tuesday, on the eve of its independence day and after a nearly three-week absence dominated by his surprise resignation
His plane touched down at Beirut international airport shortly before midnight, a statement from his office said.
Hariri had promised he would return to Lebanon in time to mark its 47th independence day on Wednesday and would clarify his position.
On Tuesday he travelled to Cairo to see the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom he thanked for his support for Lebanon.
Hours later Hariri flew from Cairo to Larnaca in Cyprus where he met late at night with President Nicos Anastasiades, said a Cyprus government spokesman.
After a brief visit he flew on to Beirut where he is expected to take part in the independence day military parade early on Wednesday and the customary reception at the presidential palace.
A dual Saudi citizen who has previously(??) enjoyed Riyadh’s backing, Hariri resigned in a mysterious broadcast from the Saudi capital
Questions remain over whether the resignation will stand, forcing negotiations on a new government, or if he might withdraw it.
Under Lebanon’s constitution the president is bound to accept a premier’s resignation however it is tendered, according to the Lebanese constitutional expert Edmond Rizk.
Although it is not outlined in the constitution, Rizk said, custom dictates “this resignation is supposed to be submitted to the president of the republic”.
A resignation brings down the government and the president then engages in consultations to select a new prime minister to form a cabinet.
In Lebanon, divided for more than a decade between a pro-Saudi camp and a Tehran-backed alliance, that process typically takes months of political wrangling.
But the discussions also aim to strike a balance between the country’s diverse religious communities.
As part of Lebanon’s presidential-parliamentary system, the premier must be a Sunni Muslim, the president a Maronite Christian and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim.
More than a week ago Hariri said he could walk back from his resignation if Hezbollah withdrew from regional conflicts, including Syria.
Hezbollah, whose forces are fighting in neighbouring Syria along government troops, has said it still considers Hariri the current premier. “When he comes we will see. We’re open to all dialogue and discussion,” its chief, Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday.
But if Hariri stands firm Aoun has two options: either rename him premier or choose another prominent Sunni figure to lead a new cabinet. “If Hariri’s consultations lead to a new government, that would be a way out,” said Rizk.
Aoun tipped Hariri as premier in 2016 as part of a deal across political lines that ended a two and a half year stalemate in Lebanon.
Hariri’s two terms as prime minister have both ended abruptly.
In January 2011, as he was meeting with then-US president Barack Obama in Washington, Hezbollah and its allies withdrew their ministers and collapsed Hariri’s government.
His unexpected resignation earlier this month was seen as part of an escalating power struggle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, which back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Saad Hariri Lands, On a Well Chosen Eve, in Lebanon-