Aoun Says Relations with Saudi Arabia Back to Normal

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SOURCE: Asharq Al Awsat

Time: April 09, 2018

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has stressed that relations with Saudi Arabia were back to normal, saying the funds and loans secured by Lebanon at the CEDRE conference held in Paris last week will help the country’s economy.

In a meeting with journalists from several French news outlets on Sunday, Aoun said that the Saudi contribution at the CEDRE conference is a sign of rapprochement between the two countries.

“We now have bigger confidence in relations with Saudi Arabia because they are back to normal,” the president told the reporters at Baabda Palace.

Asked about promises made by Lebanon to carry out reforms, he said the country can overcome some difficulties in the implementation of projects.

“As for fighting corruption, it is much more difficult because it spans several sectors,” Aoun stated. “Some influential figures continue to protect corrupt individuals. So at first those involved in corruption should be held accountable.”

International donors pledged on Friday more than $11 billion in low-interest loans and aid for Lebanon at the Paris conference. Lebanon for its part promised a string of reforms including tougher measures to fight corruption.

The conference was aimed at giving Lebanon a boost as it prepares for its first general elections in almost a decade in May.

Aoun stressed that the parliament would witness changes during next month’s elections because the new electoral law allows both the minority and the majority to be represented.

Asked about repeated calls made by Lebanese officials for the return of Syrian refugees to their home country, the president said that the displaced can go back to Syria after military confrontations have been limited to small pockets.

“Bashar Assad is currently the president of his country,” Aoun said.

“We must engage with the existing government – we have no other option,” he stated, responding to a question about Assad’s political future.

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