BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia welcomes Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh to the presidential race, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri said.
“Out of Saudi Arabia’s concern over Lebanon's situation, we call on Lebanese leaders not to miss the opportunity to elect a new president,” Asiri said in remarks published Friday.
“Saudi has blessed the initiative to elect Frangieh out of its keenness to fill the presidential void in Lebanon after more than a year and a half. This has become a threat to Lebanon’s stability,” he told pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
Asiri added that he has informed Kataeb Party leader Samir Gemayel of the kingdom’s support for Frangieh and urged politicians to seize the chance at electing a new head of state.
The Saudi envoy encouraged Gemayel to involve all Christian parties in a “constructive” dialogue for the sake of stability in Lebanon.
Momentum was building for the election of Frangieh as his nomination gained tacit support Thursday from key local and regional players, as well as the Maronite Church, in a fresh flurry of efforts to end the 18-month-long presidential vacuum.
Riyadh has invited Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, who staunchly opposes Frangieh’s nomination, for talks “very soon,” a senior political source told The Daily Star.
In addition, Frangieh’s bid also faces opposition from MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Kataeb.
Aoun, backed by Hezbollah, is still adamant on his candidacy for the president, refusing to bow out of the race in favor of Frangieh, the source said.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who said after holding talks with French President Francois Hollande Thursday, that there is a great hope to end the presidential impasse.
This was Hariri’s first comment on Frangieh’s presidential bid since the Marada Movement leader emerged as a strong candidate.