BEIRUT: Political and religious figures in Lebanon welcomed former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise return Friday, expressing hope that the move would bring progress to the country stuck in political and security crises.
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the “auspicious and courageous return of Hariri is a big and positive step,” stressing that it served to “safeguard the logic of moderation in the country.”
Abu Faour said the move would not only help in finding a solution to the presidential deadlock but could also contribute to reaching a wide national agreement on all suspended matters.
“It opens dialogues that could not only lead to the election of a new president, but also give a bigger motive for political communication lines that could result in a comprehensive national compromise,” he said.
The U.S. and Saudi ambassadors to Lebanon, David Hale and Ali Awad Asiri, paid Hariri a visit at the former premier's Downtown residence in Downtown Beirut, welcoming his return to the country.
The latter also received a phone call from Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and visits from State Minister Nabil De Freij and Information Minister Ramzi Joreige.
Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb echoed Abu Faour, welcoming Hariri’s “initiative to come in these specific circumstances,” saying the move could directly influence the efforts to end the presidential vacuum.
“It is a normal reaction by a person highly responsible of protecting Lebanon, its political system and the common life between all its sects,” he said.
“It surely means the rejection of terrorism and extremism,” Harb added, “especially given that Hariri is a pioneer of moderation in Lebanon.”
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called Hariri to congratulate him on his safe return and said he hoped that “it will be a motivation to the good efforts pushing toward the overcoming of Lebanon’s political and social crisis.”
Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karim Ali welcomed Hariri’s move, expressing hope “that the return would be in the framework of fighting terrorism.”
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also welcomes his return, telling An-Nahar newspaper that this would complete the convening of March 14’s leaders in Lebanon. The newspaper also reported that Jumblatt described it as an “excellent” move.
Hariri’s Twitter account posted that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called the former PM to congratulate him for returning safely to Lebanon. Media reports said that Hariri received another phone call from Kataeb head Amine Gemayel welcoming the step.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi hailed Hariri’s decision to return, saying the move was a turning point.
“They say that what would come after [the battle of] Arsal is different from what was before it. Now we say that what will come after Hariri’s return is not the same as what was before it,” Rifi posted on his Twitter account.
The March 14 General Secretariat’s coordinator, Fares Soueid, described the move as “courageous and of great significance,” congratulating “Lebanese of all sects,” and stressing that the act proved wrong all the voices that had said Hariri would never come back.
The head of the General Maronite Council, former Minister Wadih Khazen, also called Hariri congratulating him for the safe return to Beirut.
The Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hassan also praised the move, hoping that “it would be an introduction to more positivity in the national arena.”
The Lebanese Democtratic Party head Talal Erslan said Hariri was “able to add a positive environment to the political life in Lebanon, by refusing terrorism and standing by the Army.”