ASIA/LEBANON – Maronite Patriarch on Hariri’s resignation: vigilance over "any sabotage scheme aimed at undermining Lebanon’s stability"
Beirut – Following the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, “there must be vigilance and full awareness against any sabotage plot or scheme aimed at undermining stability in the country”. This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai voiced regret over Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, warning of the destabilizing effects that this choice might have on the fragile national balance. In his homily during Mass celebrated on Sunday November 5, the Primate of the Maronite Church invoked everyone to support the appeal launched by Lebanese President Michel Aoun to protect and strengthen national unity, showing patience and discernment in the choices to prevent that the Country of Cedars sinks in the spiral of conflict which continues to torment the Middle Eastern scenarios. Lebanon – added Patriarch Rai during the homily – should not be dragged into “regional or international axes that do not befit its nature, values and role as an element of cooperation, stability and coexistence in its Middle Eastern region”.
Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri announced his surprising resignation on Saturday November 4, while on a visit – for the second time in five days – to Saudi Arabia. The resignation announcement was given by the same Lebanese Sunni leader with a speech broadcast from al-Arabiya satellite TV. In his speech, Hariri harshly attacked the Lebanese Hezbollah Shiite movement -linked to Iran – accusing him of “targeting his weapons” against the inhabitants of Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and highlighted the fear of threats to his life. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah responded to allegations claiming that the resignation of Sunni Hariri was an “imposed” decision by Saudi Arabia, and that the resigning Premier’s speech “was written by the Saudis”.
A few days before the new Lebanese crisis, the official invitation to visit Saudi Arabia was delivered to Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai by Walid Bukhari, Saudi Chargé d’affaires. The visit to Saudi Arabia – said Bukhari himself – should have taken place in the coming weeks, and Patriarch Rai would have also met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. But now – said to Agenzia Fides Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National President of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, new developments make it very unlikely that the visit will take place. “A Patriarch’s trip to Saudi Arabia, at the moment”, explained Father Zgheib, “risks looking like a field choice, and this was certainly not the intention of the Patriarch who had already stated that he was willing to visit Arabia Saudi Arabia to open new bridges to all”.