Fresh winds carrying good tidings blanketed Tuesday’s cold spell in Lebanon after the cordial, warm and frank talks between President Michel Aoun and King Salman.
The discussions crowned multipronged talks between the eight Lebanese ministers accompanying Aoun with their Saudi counterparts aimed mainly at eradicating all misunderstandings, ambiguity and tensions that have marred relations.
The first signal of the talks’ success came in reports after the meeting that Riyadh and Beirut have agreed to discuss the restoration of the $3 billion military aid package, which amounts to the lifting of the block.
In Beirut, Prime Minister Saad Hariri described the meeting between King Salman and Aoun as of premier importance and voiced optimism regarding the potential return of Saudi tourists and investments to Lebanon.
The outcome should also relieve the 250,000 Lebanese working in Saudi Arabia whose status was in peril for years due to Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria and beyond.
It also promises a tourism bonanza, knowing that a few years ago nearly 200,000 Saudi tourists visited Lebanon yearly, Saudi investment was some $5.5 billion between 2004 and 2012 while Lebanese expats in the kingdom sent home remittances of $4.5 billion a year.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the implications of restoring excellent ties, but it is imperative to try to build on this fertile soil.
Finally, a shining outcome of the visit’s success sees Lebanon return to the heart of the Arab nation and catapults it into its previous role as a main player within this society with a Cabinet that promises action with integrity and transparency focusing on the country’s independence and sovereignty.