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President Emmanuel Macron of France meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Thursday. Credit Saudi Press Agency, via Reuters

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Emmanuel Macron of France has left Saudi Arabia after a brief, previously unannounced meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, amid increasing international concern about escalating regional tensions over Saudi policies in Lebanon and Yemen.

During his surprise two-hour visit on Thursday, Mr. Macron “reiterated the importance France attaches to Lebanon’s stability, security, sovereignty and integrity,” and he discussed the situation in the country after the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the French leader’s office said.

France has longstanding interests in Lebanon, a former colony. Mr. Macron traveled to Saudi Arabia after a visit to the United Arab Emirates for the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Some analysts have warned that the current diplomatic climate could lead to an economic crisis or even war, albeit accidentally, as Saudi Arabia takes a series of provocative steps to counter the growing influence of its regional rival, Iran.

While anew war is unlikely, analysts say, miscalculations have started wars before, as in 2006 between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia, which is mired in a military conflict in Yemen, is unlikely to start another, while Israel, which has talked about reducing the new influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the region, has said it does not want a war now.

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Mr. Macron’s visit came a week after Mr. Hariri unexpectedly flew to Riyadh and then announced his resignation from the Saudi capital on Saturday. Since then, concerns have mounted that Mr. Hariri may, in effect, be a hostage of the Saudi government.

President Michel Aoun of Lebanon told the Saudi chargé d’affaires in Beirut, Walid Bukhari, that the manner of Mr. Hariri’s resignation was “unacceptable,” and a consortium of countries and organizations interested in Lebanon’s stability said they had met on Friday with Mr. Aoun, who called for Mr. Hariri’s return.

“I.S.G. welcome the call of the president for Prime Minister Hariri to return to Lebanon,” the coalition, known as the International Support Group, said in a statement. “I.S.G. members expressed their continuing concern regarding the situation and prevailing uncertainty in Lebanon.”

The group also “appealed for Lebanon to continue to be shielded from tensions in the region” and called for “restoring the vital balance of Lebanon’s state institutions, essential to Lebanon’s stability.”

Mr. Hariri said in his resignation speech that he was quitting because of what he said was Iran’s disproportionate influence in Lebanon through its ally, Hezbollah, which is part of the unity government he headed.

The International Support Group includes the United Nations, the governments of Britain, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia the United States, the European Union and the Arab League.

The members of the group are not all on the same side of some issues in the region, so the statement seemed to reflect a high level of concern about tensions.

Mr. Hariri, a dual citizen of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, met the ambassadors of Britain and the European Union and the chargé d’affaires of the American Embassy on Wednesday and Thursday at his Riyadh residence.

Other Western diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that those envoys, too, had the impression that Mr. Hariri could not speak freely. Saudi Arabia, which ordered its citizens on Thursday to leave Lebanon, has denied that he is being held against his will.

Continue reading the main story

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Emmanuel Macron of France has left Saudi Arabia after a brief, previously unannounced meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, amid increasing international concern about escalating regional tensions over Saudi policies in Lebanon and Yemen.

During his surprise two-hour visit on Thursday, Mr. Macron “reiterated the importance France attaches to Lebanon’s stability, security, sovereignty and integrity,” and he discussed the situation in the country after the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the French leader’s office said.

France has longstanding interests in Lebanon, a former colony. Mr. Macron traveled to Saudi Arabia after a visit to the United Arab Emirates for the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Some analysts have warned that the current diplomatic climate could lead to an economic crisis or even war, albeit accidentally, as Saudi Arabia takes a series of provocative steps to counter the growing influence of its regional rival, Iran.

While anew war is unlikely, analysts say, miscalculations have started wars before, as in 2006 between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia, which is mired in a military conflict in Yemen, is unlikely to start another, while Israel, which has talked about reducing the new influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the region, has said it does not want a war now.

Mr. Macron’s visit came a week after Mr. Hariri unexpectedly flew to Riyadh and then announced his resignation from the Saudi capital on Saturday. Since then, concerns have mounted that Mr. Hariri may, in effect, be a hostage of the Saudi government.

President Michel Aoun of Lebanon told the Saudi chargé d’affaires in Beirut, Walid Bukhari, that the manner of Mr. Hariri’s resignation was “unacceptable,” and a consortium of countries and organizations interested in Lebanon’s stability said they had met on Friday with Mr. Aoun, who called for Mr. Hariri’s return.

“I.S.G. welcome the call of the president for Prime Minister Hariri to return to Lebanon,” the coalition, known as the International Support Group, said in a statement. “I.S.G. members expressed their continuing concern regarding the situation and prevailing uncertainty in Lebanon.”

The group also “appealed for Lebanon to continue to be shielded from tensions in the region” and called for “restoring the vital balance of Lebanon’s state institutions, essential to Lebanon’s stability.”

Mr. Hariri said in his resignation speech that he was quitting because of what he said was Iran’s disproportionate influence in Lebanon through its ally, Hezbollah, which is part of the unity government he headed.

The International Support Group includes the United Nations, the governments of Britain, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia the United States, the European Union and the Arab League.

The members of the group are not all on the same side of some issues in the region, so the statement seemed to reflect a high level of concern about tensions.

Mr. Hariri, a dual citizen of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, met the ambassadors of Britain and the European Union and the chargé d’affaires of the American Embassy on Wednesday and Thursday at his Riyadh residence.

Other Western diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that those envoys, too, had the impression that Mr. Hariri could not speak freely. Saudi Arabia, which ordered its citizens on Thursday to leave Lebanon, has denied that he is being held against his will.

Nytimes

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