Beirut-Saudi Ambassador to Beirut Ali Awadh Asiri stressed that the Kingdom “does not interfere in any form in Lebanese affairs,” saying it advises the Lebanese for the sake of their country.
Asiri told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that “the Kingdom has always stood for the wellbeing of Lebanon and the Lebanese.”
“The Kingdom has never interfered in Lebanese internal affairs the same way some sides, which do not seek the wellbeing of Lebanese, have done,” said the diplomat.
Asiri expressed surprised at remarks made by Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq on the role of the Kingdom in some internal issues.
“Al-Mashnouq was hasty in giving inexistent descriptions to the Saudi role in Lebanon. He knows well that Saudi Arabia has not and will not meddle in any Lebanese internal affair,” Asiri told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Riyadh “always stands by the wellbeing of the Lebanese and seeks to improve relations between them and consolidate dialogue,” he said.
On Friday, the Saudi Embassy in Beirut issued a statement in a retort to al-Mashnouq for “shoving the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in several internal files.”
Asiri said in his statement that “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia never did and never will intervene in Lebanon’s internal affairs, especially in the presidency issue, which it considers a sovereign matter that only the Lebanese brothers can decide on.”
Riyadh’s “role is limited to encouraging Lebanese officials to finding a solution to the political crisis and ending the presidential vacuum so that the work of state institutions can be normalized and Lebanon can move to a phase of stability and economic prosperity, regardless of who the next president may be.”
Al-Mashnouq’s remarks also drew a response from the British Embassy in Beirut, which denied that the British Foreign Office had proposed to bring MP Suleiman Franjieh as president.
Al-Mashnouq said the decision to nominate Franjieh was backed by the United States and Riyadh before Future Movement leader Saad Hariri announced it late last year.
“We do not support or oppose any particular candidate for the presidency,” the Embassy said in a statement. It stressed that the election of a head of state is “the decision and the responsibility of the Lebanese.”
“We are ready to work with the next president of Lebanon, whoever that may be. We continue to urge the election of a president as soon as possible,” it added.