Beirut- Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf said the upcoming visit of Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun to the Kingdom early next week exceeds the effort to activate a Saudi arms grant for the Lebanese Army, but rather lies in the framework of underlining the special relations between both countries.
Sarraf told Asharq Al-Awsat that narrowing the visit to the issue of the grants “ill-treats both Lebanon and the Kingdom, because the meanings and the targets of this trip are bigger and more important.”
The Defense Minister pointed out to the fact that Aoun chose to visit Saudi Arabia in his first trip as president of Lebanon. “This step constitutes in itself an important development that reflects the deep relations between both countries,” he said.
Sarraf explained: “There are around 250 thousands Lebanese families living and working in the Kingdom. Their presence benefits both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. I think this is a basic reason for planning the visit, to show how much the president is interested in the Lebanese community there.”
He expected that President Aoun’s Gulf tour would positively reflect on all levels, particularly on the tourism sector and investments.
Aoun kicks off his trips as president early next week, first by visiting Saudi Arabia, then Qatar.
According to sources close to Aoun, the president plans later to visit a number of European countries, still not yet determined.
Separately, Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq said in a radio interview on Saturday that the openness of President Aoun would reestablish strong ties with Arab and international countries after years of being on shaky grounds.
Mashnouq said the President’s visit to Riyadh and Doha, as well as subsequent visits to other countries, would have a positive outcome for Lebanon. He even alluded to the possibility of reactivating the Saudi grant to the Lebanese
Before leaving to the Kingdom on an official visit for ten days, Mufti of the Lebanese Republic Abdulateef Deryan said: “We pin hopes on President of the Republic’s visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in boosting ties between the two countries and the GCC countries.”