Lebanon News

No travel ban on Lebanon: Saudi envoy

File - Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri in Rabieh, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. (The Daily Star/Charbel Nakhoul, HO)

BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Assiri said Friday that his country was not imposing a travel ban on Lebanon, adding that he had received reassurances from high-ranking Lebanese officials that the security situation here was stable.

“There is no ban on the travel of Saudis to Lebanon, but King Abdullah is only eager to protect the safety of his people and countrymen, this warning was only [placed] during the conditions that Lebanon witnessed in the past and that we hope will not be repeated,” Assiri told the National News Agency in an interview.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE renewed their advisories earlier this year, warning their citizens against traveling to Lebanon due to the unstable security situation after a spate of bombings in the country.

Assiri told the NNA that he “received confirmation from senior officials in the Lebanese government on the development of the security plan currently underway to ensure security and stability in Lebanon.”

He said they also confirmed that the security situation in the country was “reassuring.”

On the return of Gulf tourists to Lebanon and a promising summer season, Assiri said “this return is linked to the success of the security plan and its effectiveness.”

Assiri returned to Beirut Friday following a monthslong absence he justified by citing security concerns. He would now resume his diplomatic mission in Lebanon before heading to Pakistan to serve in his new post as a Saudi ambassador there.

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

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea contacted Assiri and welcomed his return to the country.

Assiri told the NNA that he was certain the security situation in Lebanon would improve with each passing day, and that the new security plan implemented by authorities would prove the government’s ability to consolidate stability.

Additionally, he noted that Saudi Arabia would not interfere in Lebanon’s internal affairs, including the presidential election.

“It is the Lebanese who choose their president and they are able to do so, and we believe that this is a solely Lebanese choice, and what we are working on is to ensure there is consensus between all Lebanese political powers in light of the remaining period [from the deadline] from the vacuum so that they can choose a president for the next phase,” Assiri said.

Assiri denied that his return to Lebanon was linked to the presidential election, stressing Saudi Arabia’s concern that the country elect a president on time.

“I returned to Lebanon to do my job and communicate with all political sides to serve the interests of Lebanon and its stability,” he said.

Assiri also said it was not surprising that a number of Lebanese officials were visiting Saudi Arabia as both countries have a unique relationship, noting King Abdullah’s keenness on having Lebanon maintain its stability and independence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 03, 2014, on page 2.




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