BEIRUT: In a passing handshake with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Wednesday at the Brussels conference on Syria, Prime Minister Saad Hariri brought up the issue of the ongoing detention of Lebanese national Nizar Zakka.
The encounter between Hariri and Zarif came as ministers and officials gathered for a group photo at the international "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region" conference – also known as Brussels II - being hosted by the European Union.
A source close to the premier told The Daily Star that it was a "passing" greeting and not a formal conversation. The source confirmed that Hariri took the opportunity to raise the issue of Zakka’s detention, but did not elaborate on what the prime minister said.
Zakka was arrested after traveling to Iran to attend a state-sponsored conference in Tehran in 2015. At the time of his arrest, he was the secretary-general of IJMA3, an Arab communications organization, and had received an official invitation to visit.
His family has been lobbying the government to raise the subject with Iran and criticized ministers for not doing enough to secure Zakka’s release.
Hariri then met with his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel at his office. The two spoke about the situation in the Lebanon and the region and the bilateral ties between both countries in the presence of Lebanon's Ambassador to Belgium Fadi Hajali and
Nader Harir, the prime minister’s chief of staff.
On the sidelines of the second day of Brussels II, Hariri held a series of meetings with Arab and international officials.
He met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir at the EU headquarters where they discussed the bilateral ties between both countries, according to a statement from Hariri's office.
The premier also held talks with Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield in the presence of Nader Hariri. "They discussed the developments in Lebanon and the region as well as the relations between both countries," the statement said.
Earlier in the day, Hariri held talks with Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Expansion Negotiations.