French President Emmanuel Macron invited Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his family to France on Wednesday, AP reported.
The invitation comes over a week after the Lebanese prime minister’s shock November 4 resignation from Riyadh and amid speculations that he is being forcibly held in Saudi Arabia.
Macron said the invitation was extended to Hariri after a discussion between the two and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He stressed that it does not mean the Prime Minister is being offered political exile in the country but also explained that it comes as an effort to "dispel fears that Saudi Arabia had taken the Lebanese premier prisoner."
In his statement on the matter, the French President said:
“We need to have leaders who are free to express themselves. It’s important that (Hariri) is able to advance the political process in his country in the coming days and weeks.”
According to AP, an anonymous official in Macron's office revealed that "Hariri is expected to travel to France in the coming days with his family."
Hariri's resignation still at center stage
Just hours before news of Macron's invitation broke online, Lebanon's President, Michel Aoun, who has yet to accept Hariri's resignation, made his most recent and direct statement on the matter.
Speaking to reporters, he said:
"Nothing justifies that Saad al Hariri has not returned to Lebanon in 12 days. We consider that he has been detained."
Aoun also stated that the Prime Minister's "alleged detention breached the Vienna Convention," adding that he must be allowed to return to Lebanon.
In the week after his resignation, Hariri appeared in a television interview, during which he stressed that he is not under arrest by the Saudi regime and will be returning to Lebanon within days.
Earlier this week, he reiterated this statement via 2 tweets he shared on his official Twitter page.