Nov 20 2012

Skaff: Saudi Arabia keen on Lebanon’s unity

20 November 2012

BEIRUT: Zahle’s former lawmaker Elias Skaff said after holding talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal that the kingdom was keen on maintaining stability and unity in Lebanon and the need to insulate it from regional conflicts.

A statement released Monday by the media office of Skaff’s Popular Bloc said the visit to Saudi Arabia, which took place last week, came in response to an official invitation.

“The atmosphere of the meeting was cordial and constructive. The discussions touched on the situation and developments in the Arab and Lebanese arenas,” the statement said.

Referring to Israel’s ongoing military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, it said: “Viewpoints were identical in condemning the outrageous war crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.”

The Saudi minister praised the “continued historic and distinctive relations between the Skaff family and the kingdom since the days of the late Joseph Skaff,” Elias’ father.

“The meeting was an occasion to stress that the kingdom stood on Lebanon’s side and would spare no effort to help it,” the statement said.

The Skaff family, which hails from the eastern city of Zahle, has always maintained close ties with Saudi Arabia dating back to Joseph, who was elected several times as an MP for Zahle.

Elias Skaff had not visited Saudi Arabia since his defeat in the 2009 parliamentary elections. Media reports said his visit to Riyadh was linked to preparations for next year’s parliamentary elections.

However, this was disputed by Skaff himself.

“The visit did not carry any internal electoral or political dimensions, especially since the kingdom is keen on Lebanon’s independence and the respect of its sovereignty,” Skaff said in a statement upon his return to Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency reported.

He added that his visit to Saudi Arabia was “normal in the current circumstances and came in the framework of the historic friendly ties linking us with the kingdom.”

“The Saudi visit stemmed from the concern of the kingdom and King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz al-Saud to maintain contacts with all the Lebanese parties without exception,” Skaff said.

He added that he had felt during the visit “Saudi Arabia’s keenness on Lebanon’s stability, unity and [the need] to neutralize it from all the conflicts sweeping the region.”

Skaff’s visit to Saudi Arabia came amid strained ties with his erstwhile electoral ally, MP Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement.

The visit has also raised speculation about a possible alliance ahead of the parliamentary polls between Skaff and the Future bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Saudi Arabia’s key ally in Lebanon.

© Copyright The Daily Star 2012.

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