Lebanon News

Saudi envoy returns, says no travel ban on Lebanon

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri attends a ceremony in Beirut, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir )

BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Assiri said Friday he returned to the country after Lebanese officials reassured him that the security situation was improving, adding that there was no travel ban for Lebanon.

“I have received affirmation from top officials in the Lebanese government that the security plan was being executed to impose security and stability in Lebanon,” Assiri told the National News Agency.

“They told me that the security situation in Lebanon was reassuring,” he added.

Assiri returned to Lebanon and resumed his diplomatic duties after a months-long absence for security reasons.

Riyadh renewed its travel advisory for Lebanon earlier this year in light of the spate of suicide bombings in the country, urging citizens to refrain from traveling to Lebanon.

Lebanon has repeatedly urged Gulf countries including Riyadh to lift the ban, particularly after the government commissioned a Lebanese Army-led security plan to restore law and order in the country.

The plan went into effect on April 1 in order to curb the phenomenon of suicide attacks, stop the infiltration of gunmen into Lebanon and end intermittent clashes in the northern city of Tripoli.

Assiri expressed hope that security in Lebanon would improve, saying there was no travel ban on Lebanon.

“We have hope and confidence that the security situation in Lebanon will become better with each day and certainly the security plan will demonstrate the government’s ability to strengthen security and stability,” he said.

“There is no ban on Saudis traveling to Lebanon but the custodian of the two mosques is keen to keep the citizens of his country safe so we issued the warning after the circumstances Lebanon [appeared to worsen] and we hope it doesn't happen again,” the envoy who left the country in mid-2013 said.

Asked whether Gulf citizens would visit Lebanon this summer, Assiri said: “I assure you that such a return depends on the success of the security plan and its efficiency.”

Upon his arrival, Assiri contacted President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil.

He also phoned a number of political figures, the NNA said.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea contacted Assiri and welcomed the envoy's return to the country.





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