Lebanon seeks co-operation with Saudi Arabia, the country’s Hezbollah-backed President Michel Aoun told Saudi television yesterday.
Aoun arrived in Riyadh on Monday night with a delegation of ministers.
It is his first trip to the kingdom since his election in November ended a two-year deadlock in the Lebanese parliament.
In an interview with Saudi state news channel Al-Ekhbaria, Aoun said his ministers of foreign affairs, education, finance and information would meet their counterparts “to find some fields of cooperation.”
Aoun himself held talks over lunch yesterday with King Salman, but the official Saudi Press Agency gave no details of their content.
Aoun, a Maronite Christian former army chief, clinched the presidency with shock support from Saudi ally Saad Hariri, a leading Sunni figure who in return was named prime minister.
Analysts say Saudi Arabia is hoping for a more stable Lebanon, after concerns about the role played by Hezbollah in the Lebanese government.
Riyadh last March declared Hezbollah a “terrorist organisation” and urged its citizens to leave Lebanon.
In February, the kingdom halted a $3bn programme of military aid to Lebanon to protest what it said was “the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state”.
The programme, funded by Riyadh, would have provided vehicles, helicopters, drones, cannons and other military equipment from France.
It aimed to ensure stability in a Lebanon weakened by internal divisions and threatened by extremists.
Asked vaguely by Ekhbaria about the agreement, Aoun said: “Of course we will discuss all the possible issues.”
Syria’s nearly six-year civil war has been a major fault line in Lebanese politics, and the country hosts more than 1mn Syrian refugees.
Aoun told the Saudi channel that Lebanon’s partners “have agreed to build Lebanon, regardless of the results in the other countries, because building Lebanon is for all, and secondly, security and stability is for all.”
He said his country’s internal political situation has improved, and expressed confidence that “balance” can be maintained.
“The state must realise, and maintain, security and stability for individuals and groups even if there are different political visions regarding neighbouring and regional countries,” Aoun said.
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