11/15/2017, 10.11
LEBANON - SAUDI ARABIA
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Riyadh, Hariri meets Maronite Patriarch and promises he will soon return to Lebanon

The historic visit of Card. Raï to Saudi Arabia, where he met King Salman and the hereditary prince. Commenting on his meeting with the former premier, he emphasizes that he understands the "motives" for his resignation. Emphasis placed on the common commitment to peace in the region and the fight against terrorism, together with the historic "friendship" between the two countries.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Regional politics and terrorism, interreligious dialogue and Lebanese issues were at the center of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Raï ‘s recent trip to Riyadh, the first historic visit of a Christian leader to the Saudi kingdom. Over two days Cardinal Raï met King Salman, hereditary prince Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs) and former Lebanese premier Saad Hariri, who assured that "within the next two days" he will return to Lebanon.

The Cardinal's official meetings were held in the presence of Christian delegates - the two bishops Boulos Matar and Paul Abdelsater - and four Saudi ministers. Although picked up by the local and international press, there was little media coverage, or information on what emerged from the fact-to-face meetings. In fact the Saudi authorities only provided official information to a single Western agency and to the Saudi official state news agency SPA.

At the end of the trip, the Maronite patriarch chose not to go into detail about the results of the meetings that were, overall, short (23 minutes with King Salman). He expanded further on the case of Hariri's resignation, which he claimed to understand "the motives", thus pointing to - without specifying it - the patriarch's hostility to Iranian and Hezbollah maneuvers in the country denounced by the premier.

"I am absolutely convinced of the reasons behind this decision and aware that Prime Minister Hariri will discuss this with the President of the Republic and the Parliament, as well as with the various political forces" on his return to Beirut . Last night the cardinal landed in the capital of Lebanon but has already left for the Vatican, where he is also due to meet Pope Francis.

In his meeting with King Salman and Mbs, he reaffirmed Lebanon's position of neutrality, reciprocated by a "hymn of love" to the country by Saudi leaders who appreciate a hospitable, pluralistic country open to all peoples ". The hope is that Lebanon can return to its former glory.

"Saudi-Lebanese relations will not be undermined," he added, though they have gone through a "difficult phase". Added to these discussions were those on interreligious dialogue and the importance of a policy of moderation in a region wounded by  confessional extremism. Finally Card. Raï and King Salman finally discussed the "importance of the role of different religions and cultures for the promotion of values ​​such as tolerance, rejection of violence, extremism and terrorism", in addition to the common effort towards peace.

The visit of Patriarch Rai came at a special moment in the recent history of Saudi Arabia. From internal repression against (possible) opponents launched by hereditary prince Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs) culminating in the wave of recent arrests to open confrontation with Iran, Mbs has embarked on increasingly aggressive policies that are characterizing his mandate. Recently, the long Saudi hand has also reached Beirut - considered hostile to (allegedly) attacks by the Hezbollah Lebanese Shiite - and causing the resignation of Saad Hariri.

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