The Latest: French president meets Saudi crown prince
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Latest on developments in Saudi Arabia (all times local):
French President Emmanuel Macron has met Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in Riyadh.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported the meeting early Friday, saying Macron met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman late Thursday night.
The agency said they discussed “the latest developments in the Middle East and the efforts being exerted for the security and stability of the region, including joint coordination in the fight against terrorism.”
The report also said that Macron “expressed France’s condemnation of targeting Riyadh city by a ballistic missile.” That missile was fired by Shiite rebels in Yemen and Macron on Thursday night said the missile “obviously” was Iranian, without elaborating.
Macron announced the surprise visit at the end of a two-day trip to the neighboring United Arab Emirates.
Kuwait has ordered its citizens in Lebanon to immediately leave the Mediterranean country as tensions between Beirut and Saudi Arabia rise further.
Kuwait’s move follows similar steps by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Kuwait’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that its decision was taken “as a precaution for any negative repercussions” in Lebanon.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shocked his country Saturday when he announced from Saudi Arabia that he was resigning. He has not returned to Lebanon since.
Saudi Arabia has in the meantime threatened that it would deal with Lebanon as a hostile state as long as the militant group Hezbollah was in the Lebanese government.
Earlier on Thursday Saudi Arabia also ordered its citizens to leave Lebanon days and the Gulf nation of Bahrain did the same earlier in the week.
French President Emmanuel Macron says he will be traveling from the United Arab Emirates immediately to Saudi Arabia to meet with the country’s crown prince.
Macron also says the missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels over the weekend at Riyadh was “obviously” an Iranian missile.
Macron made the comments during a news conference on Thursday night in Dubai. Macron he offered no evidence for the claim on the missile, but said it showed that the nuclear deal world powers made with Iran should stand — though new negotiations should be held over Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
Iran has denied arming Yemen’s rebels.
Macron’s announced trip to Saudi Arabia comes as the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been cementing his power amid a series of arrests of princes and business leaders in what the kingdom describes as a crackdown on corruption.
The political party of Prime Minister Saad Hariri is calling for his immediate return to Lebanon after he announced his resignation in a strange, pre-recorded statement from Saudi Arabia.
Following a meeting of his Saudi-aligned Future Party in Beirut Thursday, the party issued a statement saying it was “necessary” for Hariri to return “to restore Lebanon’s dignity and respect.”
The statement read by former Prime Minister Fuad Saniora seemed to indicate that Hariri is being held in Saudi Arabia against his will.
Hariri resigned his post abruptly on Saturday in a pre-recorded speech from Saudi Arabia and has not returned to Lebanon.
In his absence, Lebanon has been awash with speculation the 47-year old prime minister may be held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have denied Hariri is under house arrest.
Saudi Arabia has ordered its citizens out of Lebanon amid skyrocketing tensions between their two governments.
A brief statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency called on all Saudis living in or visiting Lebanon to depart, and warned against travel to the country.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shocked his country Saturday when he announced in a televised statement out of Saudi Arabia that he was resigning. He has not been seen in Lebanon since.
He said his country had been taken hostage by the militant group Hezbollah, a partner in his coalition government and a major foe of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia says it considers Hezbollah’s participation in the Lebanese government an “act of war” against the kingdom.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he will not consider the premier’s resignation until the two meet in person.
Saudi Arabia’s attorney general says the kingdom has called in 208 people for questioning in a sweeping probe, estimating that $100 billion has been misused through embezzlement and corruption in past decades.
Saud al-Mojeb said in a statement on Thursday that seven people were released without charge, leaving 201 people still detained.
Critics and observers say the purge that has targeted top princes, officials, military officers and businessmen is a power grab by the crown prince to sideline potential rivals and critics.
An estimated 1700 bank accounts have been frozen.
Al-Mojeb says action was taken to suspend personal bank accounts, but did not disclose any figures. The government has also declined to name the individuals being questioned, saying it is respecting their privacy during this phase of the process.