BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati held talks Monday night with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz in Riyadh, in what appeared to be a thawing of relations between the Lebanese official and the Saudi royal family.
According to Mikati’s office, the two discussed “the historical relations between Lebanon and the kingdom and the importance of developing such ties as well as the situation in the region and means to prevent Lebanon from the negative repercussions.”
The meeting, which was held at the Saudi official's residence, was also attended by a Lebanese ministerial delegation and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
The crown prince was quoted as stressing "on the need for Lebanon to preserve the values of coexistence and openness that characterize which represent its most prominent elements.”
Mikati’s ties with Saudi Arabia reportedly deteriorated after he was appointed prime minister in January of 2011, replacing former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Hariri, who has close ties with the Saudi royal family, resigned after ministers loyal to the Hezbollah-lead March 8 coalition quit his government, forcing its collapse.
In Riyadh, Mikati expressed hope Monday that Gulf countries would retract travel advisories to Lebanon, which were issued in 2011 in light of growing security concerns by Arab states.
“I understand the existing concerns by Gulf countries which prompted them to discourage their nationals from traveling to Lebanon but I am certain that this will soon pass,” Mikati wrote on his Facebook page.
“I would like to voice my pleasure for being in Saudi Arabia that has embraced Lebanon and supported it since its establishment until this day,” Mikati added.
He praised the kingdom for its continued support of Lebanon, noting that the oil-rich state was the first to help Beirut with its crisis following the 2006 war with Israel.