Saudi king hosts head of Le­banese Ma­ronites

Global Times - - World -

Saudi Ara­bia’s King Sal­man on Tues­day hosted the head of the Le­banese Ma­ronite church, a his­toric first at a time when Riyadh is step­ping up the pres­sure on Iran-backed Hezbol­lah.

Be­shara Rai ar­rived in Riyadh Mon­day, in the first trip to the kingdom by a se­nior Le­banese of­fi­cial since a cri­sis sparked by the shock res­ig­na­tion of prime min­is­ter Saad Hariri, which was an­nounced from the Saudi cap­i­tal.

The pa­tri­arch and the king “re­viewed fra­ter­nal re­la­tions be­tween the kingdom and Le­banon and con­firmed the im­por­tance of the role of dif­fer­ent re­li­gions and cul­tures in pro­mot­ing tol­er­ance, re­nounc­ing vi­o­lence, ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

Rai is also set to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sal­man on a trip that sym­bol­izes a rare in­ter-re­li­gious ex­change in the ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive kingdom, which is home to the holi­est sites in Is­lam.

The Ma­ronite pa­tri­arch’s visit “stresses the kingdom’s ap­proach for peace­ful co­ex­is­tence, close­ness and open­ness for all sec­tions of Ara­bic peo­ple,” Saudi Gulf af­fairs min­is­ter Thamer al-Sab­han said on Twit­ter.

Rai also met Hariri, who stepped down dur­ing a tele­vised ad­dress on Novem­ber 4 from Riyadh, in which he blasted Iran and its Shi­ite ally Hezbol­lah – a mem­ber of the Le­banese gov­ern­ment – for in­ter­ven­ing mil­i­tar­ily in Syria and Ye­men.

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