France’s Macron broaches Lebanon in surprise Saudi visit

French President Emmanuel Macron held hastily scheduled talks in Riyadh on Thursday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, notably over Lebanon and Yemen.

Macron, who flew in from a visit to the United Arab Emirates, had earlier declined to discuss a wave of high-level arrests for corruption in Saudi Arabia, but said it was vital to work with the kingdom for the stability of the region.

The first face-to-face talks between the two men focused on regional questions, in particular Yemen and Lebanon, and “ensuring the preservation of stability in the region”, the French presidency said in a statement after the meeting….

France has close ties with Lebanon, a former colony, and with Hariri, who has a home in France after spending several years in the country. Macron said at an earlier news conference in Dubai there had been informal contacts with Hariri, but no request to transfer him to France.

In recent years, France has been able to nurture new links with the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states due to its tough stance on Iran in nuclear negotiations, and the broad similarity of their policies on conflicts across the Middle East….

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